Help Your Shy Teen Step Out

Not everyone needs to be the life of the party, but you can help your shy teen enjoy their life. Simple steps to encouraging better social interaction.

“You have the prettiest green eyes I’ve ever seen,” the boy said to me.

My gaze dropped to the floor and I felt the breath freeze in my lungs and color rise in my pale cheeks. I thought the words “thank you”, but knew they never made it past my lips. When I looked up, he was gone.

I could have kicked myself. The boy wasn’t out of line; the comment wasn’t rude or inappropriate. So why couldn’t I answer him? Why couldn’t I just have a conversation like a normal person? I hoped with all that was in me that he would try again, that I would be prepared and that the stupid shyness that seemed to plague my every movement would somehow disappear.

The boy didn’t try again, and it took me years to overcome my shyness. It caused untold hours of loneliness and sorrow, self-recrimination and remorse. I often wished, as that shy teenager, that someone could just tell me how to break out of my shell. There had to be a way, I reasoned, but finding it was always just beyond my reach.

Shy teens suffer. So how do you help your shy teenager make friends and step out of the isolation? While it’s not easy, it is not impossible.

Shy people tend to avoid eye contact. This is simple instinct for them, but for others the averted eyes indicate dishonesty or mistrust. While this is simply a sad misunderstanding, it is easy enough to change. Instruct your teen to make eye contact with people. Let them know what others think of the lack of this skill and gently encourage them to increase the frequency with which tey meet another’s gaze. This is the first step to the perception of friendliness. It is the first step to liberation from the shell shy teens build around themselves. Your child can practice making eye contact with cashiers at stores, waiters and waitresses and other less-threatening individuals. While it is vitally important to the teen what peers think of them, the opinion of these peripheral people is less important.

It’s also tough to smile when you’re shy. Amazingly, fear of judgment reaches even to that most natural of social reactions. Unfortunately, a non-smiling, scared face does not invite interaction. People tend to veer away from people who don’t smile, and toward those who do. Again, encourage your teen to practice on the family and service persons, building up the confidence to smile at peers.

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  1. There is a classmate in my school with a like description of they way you used to be. He has been in my school for 4 years an NO improvements have been done to his personality. He is XTREMLY shy, rarely he says HI, seldom stands in front of the class to make an exposition, Always sits alone in during reccess, NEVER NOTHING. When he first entered school I really tried to help him, started conversations, included him in groups school projects, EVERYTHING!! One time, a teacher told me that the source of his problem was that her sister had died when he was 4 year old. Once I saw him crying(hidden and alone) in the classroom so all the class agreed to buy him lunch for that day. He didnt say Thanks… Nothing, I guess due to his shyness. Anyways, the problem is that no matter how hard I tried, inviting him to praying groups, or sport activities, HE WENT…
    All of the sudden, I felt like he was going just to see me. I am a very outgoing and friendly person. But the moment I realized that he could be seen me with “romantic” eyes I just stopped trying to help him.
    In class, he sometimes stares at me. I dont like it. It’s beginnig to worry me. I dont think he could be dangerous or anything like that, but… I can’t discart the option.
    How am I supposed to help him, and letting him know that my intentions are nothing else but friendly.

  2. Ya that was deff me in grade school

  3. Laura, there doesn’t seem to be any way to contact you back, but I’m concerned about some of the things you told me in your comment. The boy might just be wondering what he did wrong, wishing he were back in the crowd, even though he didn’t seem to feel comfortable there. Or it could be more serious. I’d like to encourage you to talk to your parents about this boy, or to a school official. You don’t have to try to get him in trouble, but let someone know what you’re feeling. He may have issues that you’re not aware of, that the school counselor might know. You’ve done nothing wrong, and I applaud youyr effort on his behalf. We’re told ‘what you’ve done for the least of these you’ve done for Me’, and you’ve certainly been a caring and concerned person in this young man’s life. But you mihgt need another perspective now, another person to help out. With school starting I’d like to encourage you again to seek the counsel of an adult that you feel comfortable talking to. Let me know how it turns out, if you get this message. Deb

  4. All I can say is, if you dont have shyness, thank God because you are lucky and will have a much easier life than those who are shy. Its not something chosen, its something that just happens to people. Something in the brain. When I become a doctor, I am going to cure shyness and get rid of it permanently.

  5. Laura, it’s really cool that you’re trying to help this guy! I don’t think there’s any reason to be creeped out, because I think he’s finally responding to your efforts to help him. I say just keep tring to be his friend, but make your intentions perfectly clear that you’re only interested in being his FRIEND. But don’t desert him now, because thinking that people really don’t want to be around him will probably make him shyer than ever. Remember, your have the power to make a differnce in his life!

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