Parenting Q & A

Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Heights Parent Center (now known as Family Connections) for the last 12 years, fields questions from parents about the daily ups and downs of parenting. The same issues impact many parents. If you have questions you would like Barrett to respond to in this column, please e-mail her at

Q. My daughter is extremely shy. Whenever we go anywhere she hangs on my leg, and may be reluctant to enter a new place at all. Even after we’ve been someplace multiple times or have been there awhile, she tends to stay very close to me. I tell her that I would never put her in harm’s way, and that all the people we know are nice, but she still has trouble adjusting to anyone new. I am worried that she won’t have any friends and will miss out on all the usual children’s activities. Is there anything I can do to bring her out of her shell?

A. Shyness is a personality trait that is not necessarily a bad quality or a fault. Shy kids are often focused, attentive, sensitive and observant. Shyness doesn’t always mean a child is insecure; instead, she may be slow to warm up or introverted. In fact, shy kids often make great friends because they tend to be perceptive and loyal. If you see that your child could use some encouragement in social situations, there are several things that you can do to set her up for success.

  • Be sure to emphasize the positive elements of her personality; don’t label her as “shy” to others, but instead use terms such as “observant” and “focused.”
  • Provide her with opportunities to interact in safe, small social settings where she may warm up slowly and comfortably; don’t pressure her.
  • Be outgoing yourself, so that she may learn from observing your behavior. For example, look others in the eye, be the first to say hello, compliment someone, and offer unsolicited assistance by opening a door for someone, or picking up a dropped item.
  • Share with your daughter your feelings about doing something difficult. For example, you might tell her, “It was hard for me to try roller skating again, but I’m glad I did. It was fun!”

Although it may be difficult for you to sit on the sidelines and watch, try to give your daughter time and opportunity to develop her own social personality. With support, she will eventually learn to fit in, however it feels most natural to her.

Read More on "Got kids?" Corner
Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 3:29 PM, 08.10.2010