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What causes shyness and how to treat it in children and teens

Joined: 12/10/2012
Posts: 1
Shyness Research Project
By: Dustin Tushek

Have you ever wondered about shy kids? What exactly goes on in their head and why do they rarely talk? These kids often look calm and cool on the outside, but on the inside their anything but that. On the inside they are experiencing a tremendous amount of fear and panic for something that is probably unlikely to happen such as worrying about failing a test when you spent three hours studying for it. Schools, other kids, and even parents don’t bother with these kids they just leave them alone and figure that they can’t help them with their personality struggles. It’s not right at all and more attention needs to be brought to it because these kids could possibly have some great things to say but they are too scared to say them. Shyness when not handled the right way can lead to a very troubled life, but when handled the right way can lead to a happy, successful life.

Shyness first starts out in school. The majority of shy children are actually gifted [Gifted and Shy]. However, they miss out on opportunities to further their education. They are less likely to make good use of good resources, information and career planning. While sitting in class it’s difficult for them to speak out and it’s even worse interacting with other students. The thing that should be avoided at all costs though is public speaking. The sheer thought of actually standing up and giving a presentation is “heart wrenching” to an introverted person. In you’re school career though and in most jobs public speaking is required and that’s where shy people miss out. Whenever they go to job interviews they usually show less assertive behavior and thus may appeal as less than desirable candidates for the job.

Later in life another thing that poses a threat to introverted people is they are at risk for health problems. As strange as that sounds it is indeed true that shy people are at greater risk of health problems is because for a variety of reasons. For instance, they may not have the emotional support usually found in good friends and family or they could have problems discussing health problems with their doctor. Doctors can only help if they know what’s going on. How someone reacts to stress indicates how easily that person will “resist or succumb to disease”. David Cole assistant professor of hematology at the David Geffen School of Medicine says that “since ancient Greece, physicians noted that the melancholic temperaments are more viral to vulnerable to get a viral infection”. This basically means that due to the constant tension flowing through the body of a shy person someone with an introverted personality is more likely to get a disease than the average person.

The worst case scenario is when a shy person decides to misuse alcohol. This is just a train wreck waiting to happen. Shy people use alcohol as a misguided attempt to make themselves appear more out going and friendly to cover up the turmoil they feel on the inside. It often backfires horribly and leaves them feeling worse than before. Now they have to deal with the added guilt that they tried to cover up who they really are and knowing that they used something artificial to gain acceptance. It can also cause serious legal problems like DUI’s. It’s truly sad how it can get to that level and when it does it’ll probably take years of therapy to even get remotely better.

All of these horrible negative things are very real, but they can all be avoided and it starts at an early age. The main most important thing to know is that “shyness itself is not a bad thing it’s when it interferes with everyday life.” Introverted behavior starts around as early as age two. Early schooling can sometimes be a real problem for young introverted students but there are things that the parent can do that will help make their child’s experience in school less hellish than it already is. First, an early education helps develop a child’s social skills. Find out the reasons why a child may not want to play with the other children and if that child is uncomfortable with a specific situation, it’s always a great idea to role play and act out the situation. [Bergin, Drawing out the withdrawn child] This is probably the most important time in a child’s life socially because it sets the foundation for what that child will be like socially for the rest of his/her life. Make sure parents allow that child to warm up to others and don’t be really forceful while doing so. Basic things like teaching positive self talk can go a long way and praise them when they actually do exhibit good social behavior. It’ll let them know you approve of what they’re doing and it’ll encourage them to do it more.[ Swallow pg 88]
Next, with all of that in mind adolescence can be an even rougher time for a shy child. Make sure to give them a well deserved break from the mental and emotional stress. Children can become really awkward and insecure at these times because of the many hormonal changes that are going on. Make sure to let them know that an adult figure there for them all while letting them have their independence. This time is also a time where kids are trying to discover their hidden talents. Joining sports teams or joining a band can have very positive outcomes such as having a good feeling about themselves when they do well in there certain activity and they have found a group of peers with similar interests. Allow the teen to take responsibility for their life. Have them do things such as laundry or go to the grocery store to help give the teen have the ability to say hey I can do this. Nothing boosts a kid or teens confidence like mom and dad giving their trust. [Jewell, Socially Withdrawn or Anxious Children]
Parents can only do so much however and then it’s up to the other kids to take responsibility. If it’s noticeably that someone who may be easily excluded is being excluded make sure to make an extra effort to include them. When participating in activites and they do something good make sure to let them know about it so they get the sense of feeling that they’re invited and feel secure so that they’ll come back and play again. Saying negative, hurtful insults will only damage their already hurting self esteem even more. As hard as this might be difficult to not say it’ll scar them and leave a lasting unwanted impression for a very long time since more introverted people remember the negative feedback longer than the positive. Also the maturity factor comes into play as more younger kids are less likely to realize that words can really hurt and that situation can become unavoidable. [ The Spotlight Dims and Shyness Sets in]
The best thing that can help these silent warriors is to make sure the word about this is spread. The more kids that help make efforts to include this group of kids will result in less of the tragic things that happen when shyness goes left unnoticed like the alcohol and other health problems mentioned earlier. If we can find ways to help these kids realize that they don’t have to live in a world controlled by fear and doubt then there voices will be heard and overall society will be benefitted. Greatness can really be just a couple of unspoken words away.


The Consequences of Shyness. N.p., n.d. Web. 7. 2012
Drawing out the Withdrawn Child. M. Sue. Bergin, n.d. Web. 7. 2012
Gifted and Shy. N.p., n.d. Web. 7. 2012
Socially Withdrawn or Anxious Children. Dr. Jeremy. Jewell. N.p., n.d Web. 7. 2012
The Spotlight Dims and Shyness Sets in. New York Times. N.p., n.d Web. 7. 2012
Swallow, Ward. K The Shy Child: Helping Children Triumph over Shyness. New York: Warner, 2000. Print
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