Mental Health Worker Calls for Understanding of Childhood Shyness

While some people are chatty from childhood through adulthood, others may never feel completely comfortable speaking up around strangers. Many adults think it is best to urge shy children to be more outgoing, assuming that the shyness is temporary or harmful to normal development.

Sometimes a child does need to be encouraged to “come out of her shell.” It is also true that withdrawing from or avoiding others can be a symptom of a bigger problem or a sign of something very serious, like abuse. But how can you tell if a child is just naturally shy and content to stay that way? Should everyone be forced to be more outgoing and more talkative, or should we consider that shyness may just be part of the child’s personality?

A blog post for the New York Times describes the dilemma of knowing when to interfere with a shy child’s interaction. Dr. Perri Klass, the writer of the article, discusses the diagnosis of socially withdrawn children and also that of highly active children.

As Dr. Klass points out, personality differences can account for certain behaviors that most people might consider strange or abnormal. How do mental health workers and adults who work with children know how to distinguish normal from abnormal?

If you are interested in finding out more about shyness and children and how you can deal with it as a parent or a concerned adult, click on the link below to read Dr. Klass’s post.

Photo Credit: Photosightfaces via Compfight cc