Shy Butterfly

When did being shy become a liability? In today’s extroverted world, we immediately get concerned when a child doesn’t seem to like being around other kids or doesn’t have many friends. But we’ve forgotten that a shy, introverted child can make his or her way in the world just fine.

It’s okay that she’s shy in an extroverted world. Not everyone needs to be the life of the party, after all.

Q: My 10-year-old daughter is shy and has trouble making friends.  She can handle one on one situations, but she shuts down in a group. One-on-one is rarely the case as she has two sisters near her age. She will usually leave and sit by herself to the side in larger groups. How can I help her?

A: I was a shy child who hardly spoke in peer groups in elementary and middle school. I still much rather hang around the fringes looking on in groups where I don’t know anyone.

I, too, have a shy daughter who has an older sister (less than two years apart), who is much more the social butterfly. I, too, was slightly concerned that Shy Daughter didn’t hang out with friends, want to have friends over and generally didn’t participate much in group settings with her peers.

However, I also didn’t try to change Shy Daughter or worry overmuch about her. Shy Daughter doesn’t have a large circle of friends (she’s a 14-year-old, 9th grader now) but is happy and well-adjusted. She prefers to hang out with her sister and a mutual friend/neighbor most of the time. But even then, Shy Daughter is mostly observing.

If by all other accounts, your daughter appears content but shy, then she’s doing just fine. She has her sisters and does well one-on-one. Maybe she’ll become better in groups, but maybe she won’t. It’s okay that she’s shy in an extroverted world. Not everyone needs to be the life of the party, after all.

I highly recommend Quiet by Susan Cain. It’s about being an introvert in a world that values extroverts and doesn’t understand the quiet ones like your daughter. There’s also a teen version you might want to get for her when she gets a bit older—my two teenage daughters read it in middle school, and I think it helped them a lot.


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