The signs your child's shyness is something to worry about – from playing by themselves to how they react to the postman

FOR those who know me from the TV, believe it or not, I was a really shy child.

It’s something that I have grown out of as I have moved into my adult years, but there are certainly still elements of myself that are more reserved and self-deprecating, which could perhaps be labelled as shyness, and possibly a bit of a behavioural and emotional hangover from my childhood.

Being shy is something that affects lots of people, and it typically starts in childhood. It can often be misconstrued as just being of a quiet disposition, thoughtful, or being ‘slow to warm up’, and it’s important to differentiate what is unhappy or unhelpful shyness (perhaps fuelled by anxiety, worry, sadness), and what is just a perfectly normal (and ok!) personality and behavioural trait ie a quiet disposition.

As an expert for the Baby Annabell Ask The Experts campaign, people have asked me if having a shy trait is something we are born with or if it’s something we develop based on our experiences.

In essence, it can be either or a bit of both. I had pretty outgoing, confident parents, and there are some studies that suggest the more confident or outspoken a parent in childhood, the shyer a child could potentially become.

Some research has shown that the more sensitive the parent is to their child’s needs, and responds appropriately to them, the risk of shyness decreases. In my case this is what happened – my parents tuned in to me and my needs and the shyness all but disappeared completely over time.

On the other hand, a persons temperament has a biological basis, and has long been said can be identified from babies only a few months old.

A baby who becomes easily overwhelmed or emotionally distressed is likely to become shy as they get older. That may play out in that they are particularly sensitive to changes in their environment, even simple mundane things such as the postman knocking on the door, or going for a ride in the car can cause upset.

It’s important to recognise though that a child’s temperament can change, and gradually as they are exposed to more and more people, objects and situations, signs of shyness can ebb away.

There is also nothing wrong with being a little bit shy, many find it an endearing trait, and many people, not just children, just need some time to adjust to their surroundings before they feel ready to engage fully.

Being too shy can cause problems for some children when it comes to socialising and engaging with other children.

An extremely sensitive child may actually be displaying signs of social anxiety which is important to check in on, to make sure any feelings of distress isn’t being masked by simply being labelled ‘oh he’s just a bit shy’.

Extreme shyness can affect a persons self-esteem and self-confidence and prevent them from taking advantage of opportunities or trying new things, and often the more this goes unchallenged, the worse this learned behaviour can become.

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Shyness in a child becomes a concern if they don’t want to engage with other children and prefer to just play by themselves all of the time. When children interact with their friends they learn fundamental core skills that serve as a foundation for their development such as learning empathy, taking turns, and how to converse and express themselves.

Children who lack social interaction in comparison to other children their age are missing out on important learning experiences, which in turn can affect their social skills and maturity.

It’s also important to mention that being shy is perfectly normal for the majority of people. Most children have moments of feeling bashful and cautious, and that’s perfectly okay.

In fact, it’s an important part of them assessing their situation, weighing up their environment, and mindfully making their next move. A lot of children take some time to warm up, particularly in new scenarios, but after some initial hesitancy, they tend to shake off any feelings of shyness.

Some children also become shy when their parents are present and have a tendency to cling to their mum or dad, again this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. As the parent or caregiver, you are their safe space, you are there to reassure them, and encourage them to engage in whatever is being presented.

It shows a healthy sign of attachment if your child looks to you for a cue as to their next move.

As a parent, tuning into your child’s needs, communicating with them effectively, and listening to them will help in reassuring them and reducing any shyness they may be presenting. Go at their pace, if your child just needs a few moments to warm up in their own time, don’t rush or mock them, let them be in control of themselves.

Parents and caregivers are key in helping their child with any feelings of shyness. Harnessing the power of play has long been hailed as an excellent way to engage with your child and to help them demonstrate and vocalise their feelings and fears in a detached way.

Doll play is excellent for this. Baby Annabell is the UK’s number one nurturing doll brand, and utilising your child’s doll as a tool to communicate, empathise, and practice social skills can help your child come on leaps and bounds in confidence and self-awareness – which in turn reduces shyness.

Utilising a Baby Annabell doll to tell your worries to, to act out scenarios to explain feelings, and to give it a great big hug when it’s needed is extremely useful for any child.

Accept your child for who they are, shower them with love and praise, respect them for being the unique individual that they are, and encourage them to do lots of new things to open up their experiences, this will go a long way in supporting your child particularly if they have a tendency to be shy.

View the Baby Annabell range here to help your child overcome shyness through doll play.

Elsewhere in parenting, I found out I was adopted at 31 after I took an ancestry test for a joke… I met my birth mum and dad two weeks later.

Plus I’m 29 and a mum-of-eight boys – I’m sick of people assuming they have different dads and that we’re on benefits.

Meanwhile, mum gets lunch-box shamed by her daughter’s teacher but can you spot why?

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