Going to preschool can be a grand adventure for a child. Preschool is often the first part of a child's formal education, and it offers children the opportunity to make friends that they may keep for life. If your child is especially shy, you can still empower them to make friends and enjoy their time in school without worrying about what to say. Taking steps to help them fit in can lead to an even better experience.
Step #1: Empower Them to Say "Hi" First
Shy children can have a tough time meeting new people. Many shy toddlers want to turn away from strangers or maybe even hide behind their parents. Explain to your child that they should look at other children in the eye and say "hi" first. Model this behavior for them too. Make sure they are watching as you say hello and shake hands with strangers. Be sure to take the initiative.
Preschool-aged children might not have large vocabularies or a lot to discuss, but some kids will be way more talkative than others. As long as your child learns the basics of introducing themselves to others, they will be able to adjust and feel more comfortable in many situations.
Step #2: Make Sure Your Child Knows How to Be a Good Friend
Although it can seem obvious to adults that you must first be a good friend before you can truly earn the friendship to others, many little children don't have enough life experience to know how to behave to attract friends. Talk to your preschool child about how they should treat others. You may even try some role-plays with your child where you act like a fellow preschool student, and then they can try out their newly learned skills at being a good friend.
Step #3: Ask Open-Ended Questions About Their Experiences
Sometimes a child's social anxiety can come out when they start school. Sometimes what presents itself as shy behavior is a sign of a deeper problem for a child. To help a child fit in and see whether their shyness is a sign of some underlying condition, it's best to ask open-ended questions about their experiences. You may choose to ask one or more of the following questions and then follow up depending on what their answers are.
- What do you wish the other kids at preschool understood about you?
- What sort of feelings do you have when you first arrive at preschool?
- What was the most fun thing you did today in preschool?
- What do you wish was different about going to preschool?
- Who are your favorite people at school?
- How do the other kids at school treat you?
If you suspect that your child's shyness is a symptom of another problem, talk to their pediatrician about your concerns.
Finally, keep in mind that shy children often struggle with making lasting friendships. Talking to them about how to talk to other kids and take initiative can help them fit in and have a great time at preschool. While they are at preschool, their teachers and caretakers are there to help your child learn and have a great experience, too, so reach out to them with any concerns as well.