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.
Published in: Family