Sunday, August 7, 2016

Help! My son is painfully shy

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

I need help. I’m a single mom and my son is painfully shy.

John (not his real name) is 12, and I kept thinking he’s going to grow out of it. But it seems the only difference now is that he’s become cynical about people. He thinks all his classmates are “stupid.”

I’m afraid he’s just going to keep more people away from him because he’s so shy but doesn’t know how to make a friend. He alienates other kids from him before they have a chance.

Last year, one kid decided to be friends with John just because John has a lot of cool stuff and the kid just wanted to come over and play with his games. John got out-of-control angry at the kid and the kid told other kids and then John got shy again.

Now John stays home and in his room and only comes out to eat.

I don’t know if I should put him in another school or home-school (except I would have to work night shifts and I don’t want to do that … his older brother would have to come over and they don’t communicate either).

So what do I do? I feel so bad for him. He wasn’t like this when he was little …only when I got divorced.

Mom of a Shy Boy

Dear Mom,

 You are doing great things in trying to help your son. Just by virtue of writing to us shows that you care deeply for your son.

Being shy is often a lack of social skills and in our current culture where kids rely on their social media and smart-phones to communicate; social anxiety is becoming a real problem.

John may have become cynical because he feels rejected by his peers. The truth is that shy kids do well with other shy kids because, many times, being shy is simply a matter of taking a longer time to warm up and trust others. Highly sociable kids don’t always have the patience to wait for someone to “warm-up.” Their impatience looks like rejection to the shy kids.

Your son also could have become cynical because it’s easier than accepting rejection. The problem with letting that skeptical behavior go unchecked is that it easily can escalate into angry physical behavior and aggression. A professional can assess the situation better and we suggest you talk with a therapist together.

We have some suggestions to help with your situation:

• Move John to a smaller school, where he can stand out easier and take a slower pace to warm up to others

• Encourage John to “help out” someone else who’s shy – shy kids do better with shy kids

• Don’t home-school – the last thing a shy kid needs is more isolation

• Encourage team sports, drama, band, some type of team or group activity to give your shy son a sense of
belonging and bonding

• Have John practice physical gestures (like screaming into a pillow) to release stress from social anxiety

• Make sure John feels well enough about his appearance to learn to forget himself (after doing his best to look his best) and focus on others by helping others

Almost half of our population says they are shy. We believe it is attributed to communicating with words, mostly, which is only 7 percent of our total communication – whereas 55 percent of our communication is our body language and 38 percent is our tone of voice.

Communication is fast becoming a lost art. As a culture we need to reclaim that art by putting down our devices and practicing real eye to eye communication using that 93 percent that goes beyond words in a text.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

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