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Our preschooler clams up around other kids
Q: My 4-year-old son was never around kids until he was 2. Now he’s very shy around his preschool classmates. What can I do? If we go to McDonald’s to let him play with other kids, he will just watch them. I’m concerned.
A: Chances are the shyness will improve with time, but your son may never be as outgoing as some of the other children. Give him time and opportunities to be around other children in settings not likely to make him anxious. Although they may seem benign, restaurants like McDonald’s can be very confusing to a small child. For one thing, they are usually situated next to a noisy highway, and that may make your son a little anxious. For another, he isn’t likely to know the other children playing there, and that too will increase his shyness.

To help him through this phase, be casual and take gradual steps. When there are friends in the house or you meet them somewhere, don’t insist that he talk or try to join in the activities. Let him have some of his toys in the room with you, near where you might be talking to someone else. Look at him and include him from time to time, but try not to push too hard. If your guest makes a negative comment about his refusal to join in the activities or the conversation, just make a casual comment about it: “Oh, he’s still a little shy. But he’s getting over it.” Let him know that you think he is getting over it as well, and he probably will respond in kind.