5 Tips for Helping a Shy Student Come Out of Their Shell

Dec 20, 2018 by

When students first enter school they are filled with mixed emotions. While they’re exciting to learn new things and make friends, some students struggle with uncertainty and doubt. Extroverts integrate easily with other students and quickly develop bonds and friendships. Introverted individuals have a harder time fitting in and may shy away from group work and activities. For those students who need help overcoming their social uncertainties and anxiety, there are a few things you can do. Check out these 5 tips for helping shy students break out of their shell and step outside their comfort zone.

1. Start With Small Group Interactions

Shy students are easily overwhelmed by large crowds, loud groups, and overstimulation. If a student is already withdrawn, it’s important to take baby steps in terms of helping them move passed those walls they’ve put up. The best way to do this is to start with small group interactions. Gather a group of 3 or less students that share the shy student’s same quiet, reserved personality. Work closely with these 3 students, slowly and gently facilitating conversation and interaction between them. Use information that you know to help build connections between the students. Once they’ve developed a report, you can ease out of the group and allow them to interact independently. Do this briefly at first and then extend your time away by a few minutes each day. This helps the shy student feel safe and relaxed rather than overwhelmed and alarmed when introduced to a large, loud group of kids.

2. Find a “Buddy”

Another method is to find a single “buddy” for the shy student. This should be a fellow student who is slightly more extroverted but not so much so that they overpower or intimidate the student in question. Let this “buddy” take the shy student under their wing. They can play and work together in the classroom. If the shy student is apprehensive about traveling alone in the hallways to the bathroom, nurse, or lunch room, allow their “buddy” to walk with them. This also gives the helper student a sense of purpose and responsibility. They’ll take pride in helping their classmate and the shy student will slowly develop interpersonal and communication skills at a pace that’s comfortable for them.

3. Identify Underlying Conditions or Contributing Factors

It’s important not to paint all students with the same brush. This means that shyness in a young learner could mean more than you think. Avoidant personality disorder is a rare condition characterised by social discomfort and the avoidance of interpersonal interactions. If a child is suffering from this type of disorder, it could easily be mistaken for simple shyness. While there’s no cure for avoidant personality disorder, with proper diagnosis and a treatment plan in place, students can learn to overcome their fears and develop real, lasting relationships and friendships. Other conditions that may exhibit themselves as shyness include hearing impairments, anxiety disorders, and low self-esteem.

4. Respect Their Boundaries

While it’s important to help students break from their shells, it’s equally important to respect their boundaries. Pushed too far too quickly and a shy student may withdraw even further. When planning large group activities, parties, or collaborations with other classrooms, respect if the student chooses not to participate right away. Allow them to watch from a distance or work independently before joining the group. Chances are, they’ll see how much fun their classmates are having and choose to join in. Another benefit to this is that students feel in control of their own decisions. When allowed to move and work at their own pace, shy students develop a greater sense of self-confidence, which may help them move out of their comfort zones more often and without prompting.

5. Show Empathy and Encouragement

While having a shy student in your classroom can be challenging and maybe even frustrating at times, it’s important to remain calm, patient, and empathetic. Chances are, the student wants nothing more than to run, play, and interact with their classmates. Whether it’s anxiety, fear, or uncertainty that stops them from doing so, they need your encouragement to get involved. They don’t need to be disciplined or ostracized. Don’t mistake their shyness for disinterest or their unwillingness to participate as defiance. The more freedom, space, and positivity you provide a shy student, the more likely they are to open up and grow.

When you respect a shy students boundaries and needs, you’ll be surprised at how far they come over the course of the school year. Be mindful of their interactions with other students and remember to support them in a kind and positive way. Not only will this help them open up, but it’ll also boost their confidence and help them believe in themselves.

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