Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Bringing out the Best in your Shy Child

I am by no means an expert on this.  I was not shy.  No one in my family was shy.  I had my moments  but the desire to socialize was so strong that it drove me to push through any timidity as a kid.  I am not sure I could label Munch as shy. It may be more of a stubborn fearfulness.   We called it shyness when he was a toddler.  His dad was extremely shy as a child so we thought it was in the genes.  I have to admit, I was highly annoyed by my clingy little boy.  I couldn't understand why he wouldn't want to go play with the other kids.  This was something I had to learn about from Ryan.  I would ask questions about what would Munch be thinking about in social situations so that I could empathize with him.  There were many times Ryan was better able to handle situations with Munch because he would know what to say to help.  Situations like haircuts and first day of preschool were some of Ryan's highlight reel as a dad.  I have since learned ways to help Munch cope in seemingly scary scenarios as well.
One valuable lesson that I learned from the Growing Kids God's Way study is to allow for shyness but not let it be an excuse to be rude or disrespectful.  I am so glad I learned that early with Munch.  He would NOT say hi to anyone or even look at them.  When that happened I would apologize to the person and let them know this was something we were working on.  Then, at a later time I would talk with Munch about the importance of showing people they are important by addressing them kindly.  There were days I thought I was wasting my time but now Munch is so good at addressing people that he says hi to everyone that passes by.  He still has his moments but I see him remembering the importance of showing love over his fear.
This Christmas,  Munch's preschool class were to perform a couple of songs at his school's Christmas concert and this became a great source of anxiety for him.  I volunteered one rehearsal day and he would not even stand on the stage to practice.  Me being me, couldn't bare the fact that Munch might not get up on that stage (how does anyone not want to perform on a stage?!)   What is the big deal, he performs at home all the time!  Again,  with much prayer and talking it over with Ryan, I came to accept that he might not get on that stage and that would be okay.  Again, we stressed the importance of showing love to people.  This time it was in the form of singing songs about Jesus to family and friends who may not know him.  Munch  is very logical and this really spoke to he is a true evangelist.  We took a walk through the gym the day of the performance and talked about where he would walk and who would be there.  I explained what the great big lights and speakers were for and why we needed to have the gym lights off.  Then I told him that if he was brave and got up to sing for all those people, we would come back home and have a celebration.  The rest of the day he went back and forth about whether he was going to do it or not.  I had to continually give up my expectations and love him through it all.  Ryan went in his classroom with him before the performance and made sure he could see him when he got on the stage.  That boy sang.  He sang quietly and humbly but he sang.  The best part was when he was finished.  The pride weld up in that little boy's heart and he soared for the rest of the night. We had a big celebration.  It was a very big deal!
Tomorrow Munch is singing for some seniors at a special care home.  He has not wanted to go to school all week because of this event.  I have forewarned his teacher of his anxiety and again spoke to Munch of the great joy he will bring these people by sharing his singing with them.  We stopped by the building where they will sing and met a friendly lady named Cathy who shared with Munch that she picked out special snacks for him and his classmates.  He has said he is still to too sure but I am thinking the snacks might keep him on track.
It is a phenomenon to me this shyness deal.  I have learned a great deal about those who struggle with social settings from these two men in my life.  I have learned to be more empathetic too.  I would like to think that my extroverted side has helped Munch and Ryan though.  I have been able to show them that there really isn't a lot to be scared of in those situations and that the joy of making a new friend or doing something fun is worth fighting through the fear for.  I love when Munch looks people in the eye to thank them when they compliment his jacket or when he he tells our neighbour about his swimming lessons.  More importantly, I love watching how proud he feels when he moves out of his comfort zone and experiences new things.  He is a real adventurer at heart.  It would be a shame for that to have not been discovered.
Do you see me hiding behind my little lion on the left? The lengths I go through, sometimes! Ha ha

There are still days where he doesn't want the lady from church to babysit him or when he won't ask where the bathroom is on his own. And no matter how hard our pastor tries, he WILL not do the actions to the kids' songs at our church meetings (we don't push that one because we aren't fans either).  Its totally okay.  One thing that I can't seem to get over is him not wanting to be in group pictures.  That, I believe, is pure stubbornness; a choice he will regret when he's older and wonders where he was at all the family events and parties (or not).  I am grateful for this sensitive little guy, shyness and all.
Do you have any tips for helping your child with shyness?  I would love to hear them.
Bless you!

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