Being shy and bashful seems to have some inherited basis. According to the Monitor on Psychology (November 2014), children can show evidence of shyness as young as 4 months old. While most shy children learn to overcome social reticence, about 30-40% are likely to develop social anxiety, a more intense and debilitating condition.

Shyness impacts development and success. Shy kids hold back from peer interaction and peers teach each other more than just social skills. Any parent whose child comes home with new vocabulary words (for good or bad!) that they learned from their friends knows this. Shy adults may hesitate to speak up in meetings or to take credit for additional responsibilities at work. Holidays and holiday parties can be just mildly short of torture.

So, what is there to do if you’re shy and the holidays are coming up? Well, there are several things you can try. One is to identify small ways you can work toward a social goal. This can include identifying which extended family member you are most comfortable with and planning 3 questions or topics to talk about. Your only goal then becomes to just have a conversation. You then pick another person at the next event and do the same thing. Over and over until it seems easier. Pick another social goal of talking to 2 people or having a conversation longer than 10 minutes. Do that several times until it seems OK. Maybe the next goal becomes speaking to someone you don’t know very well.

With your kids, the same idea applies, find a relative the child is pretty comfortable with, practice with your child what they might say to Aunt Allison, and then bring the child and Aunt together. Be supportive, encourage your child to say hi, and chat a bit. It’s also helpful to call Aunt Allison beforehand to tell her the plan. Better even if she is able to squat down to look your child in the face, allow some additional physical distance between them, smile, and make a comment or two while she waits (and waits) for your child to speak up. Sometimes shy people just need a little more time to open up.

If trying small steps like this does not seem to help, therapy is another effective approach. To learn more about being shy and bashful, social anxiety, and how to get help, contact Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678 or check our website at