What to do for extreme shyness?

User - posted on 06/20/2011 ( 13 moms have responded )

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My 20 month old daughter has always had stranger/separation anxiety since she was 8 months old. She recently had tubes put in her ears due to constant ear infections. She is better now, however, her stranger anxiety has gotten worse to a point where if we are in a public place, she starts hyperventilating as she buries her head into my husband's or my shoulder. As she hyperventilates, she gets flushed and hot and will not lift up her head if she is out in public. The only person she goes to is me and my husband. She won't even go to my mom who took care of her the first year of her life. When we go to kid's birthday parties, she doesn't want to play with the other kids and run around. She'd rather be carried hiding her face the whole time and not once will she want to be put down. It's very frustrating!!! At first, I thought it was maybe now she can hear clearly after the surgery, but she's comfortable at home with loud noise. I just wanted to know if this is normal for toddlers or have you experienced this extreme shyness/stranger anxiety with your child, especially with the physical burying of the head and hyperventilating. I understand she will outgrow this, but she has had this for a year now and has gotten worse instead of getting better as she is getting older. Please help! Any tips, advice, or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

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Angela - posted on 06/22/2011

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My daughter did this she is four now, but it seem to last forever. I would just get her to say hi to friends/family and make it seem really exciting. Every now and then I would kind of force her to walk even if she cried it would take a few minutes but then she would stop and just stay close. She started playing by kids that were calm but would not interact. It is just baby steps introduce her slowing and happily to others, put also give her a little push. Addi is 31/2 now and she is pretty social but still enjoys calmer chidren.

Karli - posted on 06/21/2011

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I can recommend a book, it's called Raising your spirited child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. If you google that I think she might fit some of these categories and this book saved my relationship with my son. It will shed some light on how to deal with what you are going through.

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Get her involved in something.. Maybe mommy and me swimming lessons? something she can be proud of and be around other kids and adults.

√v^√v^√♥ - posted on 06/20/2011

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Do you have friends who have kids she knows and plays with? You should try to find some if not. Join a mommy play group locally too? I think she just needs to learn in small amounts like what Josie was saying..

Do you have anxieties? Our kids tend to pick up on how we are feeling so perhaps if you are nervous you are teaching her to be. Also, if you let her bury her head when you are out and carry her around, it also reinforces it. I'd add a dash of tough love with this one. Nothing extreme, just let her be upset on her own for a few minutes. Sounds like she needs to learn to be more independent.

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Josie - posted on 06/24/2011

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i agree with Jenn H....just go the distance....let her be with you and continue with what you are doing...dont MAKE her face anything she cant or wont cope with.LOVE LOVE LOVE and understanding!

Jenn - posted on 06/22/2011

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Ok...I totally disagree with putting her down and walking away!! You have a very sensitive child, as do I. And yours is only 20 months so that age is certainly prone to social anxiety anyway. My oldest was dreadfully shy and clingy. I never ever made it worse by putting her away from me. Instead, I let her know I was there to comfort her if she needed it. We joined a baby gym class and it required parent participation minimally...just enough that the children could explore but have a parent nearby for a security check. We also found a playgroup that met at the park or in friend's homes. Maybe just 1 or 2 kids her age to start with. Your daughter is just in a phase. Yes, it can be very frustrating because other people have certain expectations of children that some kids just aren't ready to meet yet. Now 6, my daughter has grown into such a sweet, loving, attentive and outgoing friend to others. She is worlds faster at adjusting to new situations and is far more confident than many children her age. I think my husband's and my patience and constant reassurance that we are there for her...even when not physically with her, over the years has helped my sensitive child tremendously. Sensitive children are in tune to their surroundings at all times. Your daughter just wants to feel secure and safe. She will get braver and more confident with your love and gentle urging.

√v^√v^√♥ - posted on 06/21/2011

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Weird. Sorry. I got nothing.. because I'd just try to teach her that you can't be on mommys lap while in public the whole time.. and keep putting her down. Comfort her on the floor and walk away.. :(

User - posted on 06/21/2011

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No, she isn't scared of any of the kids we play with because she use to play with them when she was younger. I will definitely look into that book. I'll try anything that will at least help improve her extreme shyness/stranger anxiety! Thanks!

User - posted on 06/21/2011

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No, but she grabs on to my leg or close to me if I put her down. I am initially holding her at first until she warms up or feels comfortable for me to put her down which may take 30 min to an hour. Isn't that crazy?!?! She has extreme social phobia!

√v^√v^√♥ - posted on 06/21/2011

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Do you hold her the whole time at the playdates then?

User - posted on 06/21/2011

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Thanks ladies for the tips! We have a lot of friends who have kids around the same age as her and we always have playdates at least once a week. So she is around a lot of children who are sociable. I think the more we have playdates, it gets worse which is very odd. I've tried tough love, but she throws a terrible tantrum in public because she wants to be picked up and secure in my arms. Don't know what to do, but I guess hope she eventually "outgrows" it.

Josie - posted on 06/20/2011

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hmmmm i read that the less attentio given to it the better.just be there for her but continue to go around other people and situations...dont insist that she be sociable but encourage her to greet family and close friends in small doses.But again, dont make a fuss. Thats just what ive read.Maybe dont take her into situations with many rowdy kids and lots of strange people.But the key ,i read is not to give it huge attention.just lt her sit/cuddle with you in social situations without suggesting she socialise.

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