Fall is my favorite season, and as a child, I loved the anticipation of getting ready for school. But “Back to School for a Shy Child” was my story.
I loved new school supplies, the orderliness of my school day and reading. I loved the social structure of the classroom and I knew how to behave there.
Back to School for a Shy Child
The only thing about school was a pesky thing called recess.
I loved recess as much as any child, but I didn’t love it in the same way, and this bothered some adults.
My best memories of recess are of playing chocolate factory in the puddles and pioneer on a giant rock that I pretended was a cow.
I played these games alone; but I remember having friends in those years, Kim and Karen and LaShonda and Sarah.
When I was in second or third grade, the school guidance counselor put me in a “friendship group”.
My best friend was in the same group.
We had to draw a picture of ourselves on the playground, I’m sure to see whether we drew ourselves alone or not.
At the time, I just thought it was odd, but kind of fun. The group was kind of like a classroom, and I liked classrooms.
When I was a little bit older, I spent recesses on the “tire bouncer” reading with my best friend.
I don’t remember what I read, but she read Gone With the Wind in fifth or sixth grade.
I used to read at lunch, too, but my teacher didn’t approve and forced me to stop.
This made me feel a little persecuted for being different, and while my righteous indignation was a little over the top, I still don’t really understand.
Then came Homeschooling
I was homeschooled in 7th-9th grade, and the whole reason for this in my mind was that the social aspects of school stressed me out.
Being homeschooled didn’t make me socially awkward; in or out of school, I was awkward.
However, I missed the discipline of the classroom and I returned to school to finish high school.
I was shy and still am, though people who only know me in writing are sometimes surprised by this when they meet me in person.
When I was in college, my RA actually told me that it was a sin to be shy; I was mature enough to know that was silly, but it hurt my feelings anyway.
She clearly had no idea what back to school for a shy child meant to me.
Her perspective was that pride kept me from being more outgoing; it is simply untrue for the most part that I stand around thinking, “I’m afraid to talk to people because they might think ill of me.”
What really happens is I just don’t have anything to say; my mouth just won’t open.
My heart pounds and I want to cry in the worst cases.
On the other hand, I’m a good listener and I suppose that’s how I’ve made most of my friends.
Shyness Can Be Painful
Shyness can be painful, I don’t deny that. I have often felt isolated and alone.
I’ve been afraid that I’ve hurt people’s feelings by not having more to say.
Nonetheless, I believe that shyness is a part of what makes me, me.
Like any character trait, it brings with it strengths and weaknesses.
What should you do if you have a shy child? Back to school for a shy Child can be traumatic.
Why should you have to do anything?
Well, it is your job to help your child be the best version of themselves that they can be.
I can’t tell you how to parent; every parenting decision is so specific to your own family.
However, I can tell you that, in my experience, trying to force your child not to be shy will not work. (But everyone’s different!)
What Shy People are Told
Sometimes shy people are told that to make friends, they need to be outgoing.
This only made me depressed; to me, it was the same as saying, “You’ll never have friends because you’re not made right.”
It isn’t actually true; outgoing people will find shy people, and they need that quietness. They understood what back to school for a shy child meant to me.
Why not emphasize to your child that what they need in order to make friends is kindness, sympathy, compassion?
Where Shy People are Comfortable
I can’t speak for all shy people, but for me at least, there are settings I am more comfortable in: The classroom, as I’ve mentioned before, whether as student or teacher, and in retail.
These places are sort of a social brace that I find helpful.
I’ve gotten to know people in the classroom or at work that I later became comfortable with in more casual settings.
You could find out where your child is comfortable and use it as a springing off point in a similar way.
Personally, I have found Facebook to be a great tool, though it may not be child-appropriate.
It hurts my feelings a little bit when people call Facebook a great time waster and a way to foster “inauthentic relationships.”
You can waste time on Facebook or anywhere else, but I’ve made many friends–friends that I now do things with in real life!–using this tool.
One more word of advice: if you have a shy child, cherish being on the inside of their world.
My little girl tends to be quiet (although since she’s already losing her shell at 3 years old, it may not go as deeply as my shyness), but at home she’s a total goof off and entirely comfortable.
I think it’s a great privilege to see that side of her.
Were you a shy child or do you have one? What advice can you add? How was your experience with back to school as a shy child the same or different from mine?