By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Shyness is a common but little understood emotion. Everyone has felt ambivalent or self-conscious in new social situations. Children are shy in different ways for different reasons. However, at times shyness may interfere with optimal social development and restrict children's learning. Shyness can be painful for both parents and children. Parents however need to realize some kids are just born to be quiet and less outgoing than other children are. The key is to realize when a child's shyness is becoming a problem that it results in problems with school and social interactions.

There are a number of conditions that seem like, or can lead to, shyness---many of which require psychiatric attention. Some children struggle with non--verbal learning disabilities or Asperger's Syndrome which interfere with their ability to read social cues and understand how to enter and exit play or answer questions at an appropriate level, other children struggle with social anxiety disorder which prevents them from getting along well with others.

A shy child is anxious or inhibited in unfamiliar situations or when interacting with others. A shy child is most likely to be nervously constrained if they feel they are 'on show', such as when meeting someone new or having to speak in front of others. A shy child is much more comfortable to watch the action from the sidelines rather than join in.

The following are some strategies for helping a shy child:

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,