It’s natural to worry if your child sits on the benches alone at the playground. As a parent, you understand the importance of social interaction for your little one and you want nothing more than to help them with it.

However, doing so requires mindfulness. The wrong approach could make your child even more hesitant around other people — the opposite of what you want. Here are some of the best ways to help a shy child make friends. 

What makes some children shy? 

A shy child evidences distress, discomfort or fear in social interactions. This discomfort can plague your little one throughout life — and the problems begin young. For example, even teachers are more likely to make report card comments about failure to participate than realize a student struggles when all eyes are on them.

Unfortunately, some parents worsen the issue by forcing the kid to comply with their behavioral expectations instead of seeking the root cause. This approach backfires because awkwardness in social situations can result in inappropriate emotional responses, which make the child a target for bullies. Negative social interactions perpetuate their existing fear, resulting in tantrums and avoidant behavior.

6 tips to help your child make friends

Most shy kids simply need a little encouragement to make friends. Here’s how you can do so gently and positively so they look forward to events with anticipation, not dread. Furthermore, they’ll begin to develop interpersonal skills that will assist them throughout life.

1. Rehearse your lines 

Think back to the last time you had a job interview. Chances are, you rehearsed your responses to frequently asked questions in the mirror the night before.

Do the same thing to ease your children’s fears about social interactions. Take turns role-playing other kids on the playground and how they might respond to various invitations to play. Invent likely scenarios and let them get comfortable handling them with you first. Doing so instills confidence in their ability to respond appropriately.

2. Use the home field advantage

Those on the spectrum may have exaggerated responses to changing stimuli, but the term “home-field advantage” exists in competitive sports for a reason. Everyone feels more comfortable on their own turf and introducing new social situations in a relaxing environment increases the odds that your shy child will respond favorably.

Host play dates at your house whenever possible. If meeting publicly, visit the location with your kid in advance to acclimate them. Feeling secure in their surroundings relieves a source of stress, letting your child focus on enjoying their new friends.

3. Read books about friendship

Books are often a shy child’s best friend. Invest in titles that teach about friendship, such as: 

  • “The Buddy Bench” by Patty Brozo
  • “Let’s Be Friends/Seamos Amigos” by Rene Colato Lainez
  • “How Do Dinosaurs Stay Friends” by Jane Yolen

4. Tag along 

Playdates are one of the most important ways to foster your child’s social skills from a young age. Kids learn through imitation, so tag along on their initial outings and let them see you socializing, too. Your mere presence may be sufficient to calm a little one with separation anxiety, removing a source of stress from such encounters.

5. Respect your child’s boundaries

Here’s where it gets tricky — encouraging social interaction without force. After all, you want your kid to feel safe saying “no” and asserting their boundaries, too. The following approach may help:

  • Inform your child of playdate times, conveying positive excitement.
  • Tell them you will check in with them every X minutes.
  • Agree to leave at that time if they feel overwhelmed.

Doing so builds trust and a sense of agency while still introducing little ones to new social scenarios.

6. Offer more support as they get older

Children of any age can experience shyness. As they get older, you won’t want to be over-involved in their social lives, but there are ways you can still encourage them. 


At this age, kids start to feel more self conscious and need more support in boosting their confidence. Aside from participating in extracurricular activities, you can enroll your child in a public speaking course to help them practice conversational skills. 

Early teens

In the early teen stage, sit down with them to talk about extracurricular activities available at their school. Many children struggle to fit in when they start high school, so try to get them excited about choosing an activity they love. 

Late teens

Most teens will feel nervous thinking about going off to college and parting with their current friends. You can support them by exploring their college’s clubs togethers. Joining a club, a Greek life organization or similar community can connect them with people with shared interests who might turn into lifelong friends. 

It’s natural to be concerned about a shy child, as the ability to thrive in social situations affects future success. Discovering and addressing the underlying causes of their anxiety helps, as does a gentle, positive approach.

Use the above tips to help your shy kid make friends. Knowing how to interact positively with others benefits them throughout life.


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