Not every teenager is fully engaged in activities, sports, friends, movies, and the mall. Some teenagers continue to suffer from shyness well into their teen years and often into early adulthood. Shyness can lead to problems throughout adulthood, and parents should encourage their teens to come out of their shell just a bit when possible.
Some kids are just naturally shy. There is not necessarily anything wrong in that, unless it is hampering them from making friends, participating in classroom discussions, and keeping them on the side lines peeking over at the activities they would really enjoy. There is a difference between being shy and being reserved. Being reserved simply means that there is ample lead in time before the teen decides to voice their opinion, but they will eventually be vocal about their opinion even if it disagrees with everyone else’s. Being shy is more likely to mean that they will never vocalize their opinion for fear of being thought poorly of, made fun of, or the object of ridicule. Shy kids will allow themselves to be walked all over while reserved kids are simply measuring up a situation to figure out how to best deal with it.
Being shy keeps kids from making friends, from participating in activities they really want to, and from exploring new ideas and adventures that can really turn them on to some newfound joys in their life. Shyness is not just about being afraid to talk to people, it’s usually a sign of a lower than average self esteem. Kids who are shy tend to believe they don’t have much to offer and that other kids may make fun of them, or even that their ideas are stupid and they are better off keeping their mouths shut.
In adulthood, shyness means they are less likely to go after promotions, even attain better employment or be socially active if they do not learn to break through their shy behavior as teenagers. Shyness can hinder them beyond failing to get a date to the prom, although for some kids that is quite devastating in and of itself.
Encouraging kids to break free from their shy nature a little bit takes a little patience and creative thinking. Kids who are shy are typically not athletic, although there’s always a surprise in every bunch. Not being athletic in today’s schools often put teenagers in a category or clique whether they choose to be or not. Unfortunately, teenagers identify each other by which group of kids they most belong. Athletes are still called jocks and the geeks are still the kids who love their computers and gamers hang with other gamers to discuss video game cheats. While these categories tend to be more detrimental than positive, the one positive side effect of these cliques is it typically gives teenagers a sense of belonging, except for the few stragglers who don’t really belong anywhere. These teenagers, whether they admit it or not, are lonely. Nobody wants to be an outsider, to not belong, to have no place that feels like “their crowd.” In adulthood, not being able to be categorized is a positive attribute. As a teenager, it can have a damaging effect on the self esteem.
Kids who are shy tend to do better in small social groups than larger more boisterous groups. Thus, plunking them in the middle of the soccer team with a swat on the back and a big thumbs up isn’t likely to draw them out of their shell. However, if you listen intently, your child will tell you how to draw them out of their shell and improve their social skills. They will tell you by the interesting things they talk about and their everyday conversation. They will tell you by the pictures they have plastered to their walls or the screensavers on their computers. Every teenager has dreams and interests, shy kids are less likely to go after them. Coaching them into their interests is one of the better ways at helping them shed their shy shell.
Decide on a project, a hobby, or an activity that is likely to involve other teenagers, preferably from outside their own school district, and present them with the opportunity to join in. Clubs, youth groups, and other organizations are a wonderful resource for these types of activities. By presenting them with the opportunity, you are sending them the message that you believe they will fit in, you believe they have something to contribute, and that you believe they will enjoy themselves and have some fun. They may not jump all over it like a puppy on hamburger, but they are likely to at least give it a try. All kids want to make friends and feel good about themselves.
Starting a few new routines at home can also help to draw out a shy teenager. Encourage them to be more vocal in family settings. Ask them questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Inviting them to share their views can help them overcome the notion that they are not supposed to speak up or that they are not as important or smart as those around them. Shyness can be overcome, but only in settings that seem safe enough in the beginning. By providing those settings, you may be amazed at how quickly your shy little one turns into the chatterbox of the party.