“Shy” is a term used to describe many children, especially those who have a temperament or a personality type that is more timid, inhibited, hesitant, or self-conscious. According to Merriam-Webster.com, “shy” is defined as “feeling nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and talking to people”.
Generally, most children who are shy can get over their nervousness after a little while — after observing other children in the environment or familiarizing themselves enough with their surroundings. They would then feel more comfortable to explore the environment on their own, or to join in with the other children. Shyness within a normal range is common in many young children and teenagers, and often does not substantially interrupt their day to day success.
However, there are those whose shyness and nervousness do not dissipate as readily. These kids tend to feel worse and more nervous as the minutes pass, and often feel the need to escape from the anxiety-provoking situation. In their minds, anxious thoughts might replay over and over with statements such as “I’m going to look silly”, “They’re going to judge me”, “I can’t do it”, “I don’t know what to say”, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do”. The more they don’t engage with others in the moment, the more distanced, out of place, or awkward they might feel. This can be especially magnified for teenagers who view peer belongingness and acceptance as crucial to their level of social comfort.
Is it simply shyness?
At times, what is seen simply by others as shyness is experienced as something deeper and more painful within the child, and may be diagnosed as social anxiety. Although only a small portion of shy people can be categorized as having social anxiety, it is a very real struggle.
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