April 08, 2009

Shy Children

Shy Child Can Become More Social

Sylvia Rimm Q. Can you give us some advice on helping our 3-year-old daughter overcome her shyness? She's in preschool and cried the whole time at the Christmas party. She wouldn't go on stage with the rest of her classmates and stood next to me, clinging to me the whole time.

A. While children are born with different temperaments and some are more shy than others, fully half of shy children reverse their obvious shyness. A first priority is for children not to become labeled by adult talk as being shy, so when others call your daughter shy, just respond by saying, "She seems to be getting over her shyness as she grows up." You'll want to look for opportunities to comment within her hearing on her improved social ability and independence. Gradually, she'll see herself as more confident as you describe her that way. Right now, discussion of her shyness brings her plenty of attention, and she carries it as her persona.

Plan play dates for her at home and at other children's homes so she gets time away from you. Don't ask if she'd like to go to new places, or she'll say no and an argument will ensue. Instead, just say, with confidence, "I've arranged for your friend to come here," or " � for you to go there," or " � for you to take dance lessons." Once she's been dropped off a few times and starts enjoying friends or interesting classes, she'll forget to feel shy and will develop more social confidence.

For free newsletters about referential speaking, principles of parenting, or social skills, send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to www.sylviarimm.com for more parenting information.


Appropriate Nudity Is Culturally Defined

Q. I'm wondering at what age is it inappropriate for a child to see their parent naked? If it's the opposite-sexed parent, is the age different?

A. Most typically, seeing the same-sexed parent nude is reasonable at any age, thus dressing in locker rooms for swimming or gym is usually open. I advise that nudity with the opposite sex should stop around kindergarten age when children are expected to use separate rooms at school for dressing or using the toilet.

Children need to be taught not to touch private parts quite early, although they're often curious about touching their parents' private parts. The most important reason for teaching this is to avoid children getting into trouble by touching other children and to protect them from predators or abusers who might take advantage of their naivet� and touch them.

Some cultures are clearly more relaxed about nudity than others, and in some cultures adults and children are even playful about touching each other's private parts. Because our mainstream culture has become hypersensitive to abuse, I recommend stating very clearly to children that they must not touch others' private parts and must not permit others to touch theirs. Nonetheless, it's important for parents not to overreact or over punish children when they touch or look at each other out of what always has been and continues to be normal childhood curiosity. It's a very tricky balance.

For a free newsletter about raising preschoolers, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read "Raising Preschoolers" at www.sylviarimm.com.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or srimm@sylviarimm.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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