**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.
The Playground. A haze of juice boxes, scrapes, screams, giggles, and chattering parents. It’s a buffet of varying parenting styles and a rainbow of personalities.
Among those personalities, are the kids who are often labeled as shy. You know the ones. The kids who may not jump up and down loudly or who take longer to warm up to new people. Or the kid who prefers to play alone.
This was how my own daughter was during her toddler years.
The local playground had been our sanctuary since my daughter was a baby. It started out as just somewhere to go but it ended up playing a very important role in my child’s social development.
From the time she was 2 years old until she was about 6, my daughter was extremely shy. I’m talking about hiding in a corner and covering her face when friends or even family would try to speak to her shy.
It was worrying. It was embarrassing. It was frustrating.
On top of this struggle, the unsolicited comments from other parents about how my daughter must have some sort of behavioral disorder because of her refusal to make direct eye contact when she was shy was incredibly difficult to deal with.
Our pediatrician had no such concerns. He said she was just very shy.
So I persisted with the playground trips. I thought it would help. We went twice, sometimes three times a week. It became our ritual. The playground was her place to learn how to play with others, share, and have conversations with kids her own age.
At age 4, my daughter went to preschool. The first few days she was in her impossibly shy and difficult mood. I worried again.
And then it clicked. After the first week of preschool, my daughter completely changed. She was talking more. She was expressing herself more. She was still shy at times, but not like before. Now she was thriving.
Over time, my daughter started making friends. Then came the playdates. Eventually, she started coming out of her shell faster and more often at social events.
The rest is history, really. She’s more confident now. She loves life.
Now when we go to the playground she runs up to every child there and asks them to play. The change is like night and day.
So what’s my point here?
My point is that ever since I dealt with my own child’s shyness, I often find myself running into other parents experiencing the same issue. They’re scared and they’re worried because their kid is “too shy” or, “won’t play well with others.” They feel immense pressure for their child to fit in. I feel nothing but empathy because I’ve been in their shoes.
One of the more significant reasons that parents of kids who are shy feel so much anxiety is not just because it’s incredibly hard dealing with a small child who won’t leave your side or make new friends, but because other people in their lives have shamed them for it.
Sometimes the shaming comes from close friends and family who don’t understand shy behavior at all. Parents of shy children might hear comments like, “What’s wrong with them? Is that normal? Maybe you should have that checked out.”
Quite bluntly, to those people who make comments like this — maybe it’s none of your business and perhaps you should keep those thoughts to yourself.
The lesson here is that you truly never know what another parent is going through privately and you should practice more compassion than judgement.
Before commenting on the behavior of a parent's child, you should know that every parent has problems and they’re already dealing with a hell of a lot already without your (likely) unwanted input piled on top.
Now, if a parent asks you for advice — by all means, have at it. Otherwise, just zip it.
In general, most parents are fully aware if their child is not behaving the way they “should” or not developing in a “normal” way, and — most likely — they’re already on top of trying to figure out a solution. Additionally, they’re probably losing sleep over it already.
In my case, my daughter was able to recover from her shyness and move on. Other kids don’t move on and do end up having more serious behavioral issues.
But that’s none of my business. It’s not my job to parent other people’s kids. Luckily for me, we just needed a playground and some time.
So for every parent out there who has experienced something similar to this or is experiencing it right now — try not to let other people’s comments get to you. I worried about this issue constantly — and I wish I hadn’t spent so much time doing that.
You don’t ever need to feel embarrassed or awkward just because your child is shy. You are definitely NOT alone. And it will be OK.