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Helping a 3 ½-year-old feel comfortable as the center of attention
Q: My 3½-year-old niece gets very embarrassed and upset when a group pays attention to her, whether the group consists of close family or strangers. An example: on her 3rd birthday, the family (about eight of us) sang "Happy Birthday" and clapped for her when she blew out the candles. She burst into tears and later asked her father, "Why was everyone laughing at me?" She still remembers the mument today—nearly a year later—and continues to view the situation as being laughed at, even when we tell her otherwise. How can we best respond to her when she reacts this way, and how can we encourage her to feel a little more comfortable when she's the centre of attention
A: I don’t mean to minimize your concern, but I think she will get over it without any specific help. The more opportunity she has to be in social situations (other people’s birthdays, holiday gatherings, etc.) and hears “Happy Birthday” sung to others and notes their delight, she will realise it is something to be pleased about and will lose her fear of the situation. Chances are she will continue to be shy when thrust into the limelight and will not seek such attention the way some children do, but the intensity of her negative reaction will undoubtedly diminish with time.