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Shyness Isn't a Character Flaw

Say 'Aah' | Kid Health

January 17, 2000|EMILY DWASS

Raise your hand if you've ever been at a party or in a new class or in the cafeteria, and you didn't know anyone and wished you could just disappear.

"A lot of kids do feel shy in a new situation," says Wendy Schuman, executive editor of Parents magazine. She adds that when you're feeling shy, it seems as if a huge spotlight is shining on you and you worry that you'll "do something embarrassing or be laughed at or teased."

If you sometimes feel this way, don't worry. It's perfectly normal.

"There's nothing wrong with being shy," says Dr. David Feinberg, a UCLA psychiatrist who works with kids and teens.

He points out that shyness can be a good reaction when we are faced with a new setting or experience. By holding back a little, we have time to observe what is going on and see how we fit in.

"It's appropriate to check out a new situation," Feinberg says.

You then may decide you want to jump in, which isn't always easy. For example, you might want to join a playground game, but you feel unsure about approaching the other kids. Feinberg suggests that, when you go to the playground, you take a ball.

"There's a much greater chance that you'll be in the game," he says. If a game is already in progress, "compliment the kids who are playing and ask if you can join the team that's behind."

For people who are very shy, even a small event, like inviting a new friend over to play, can be stressful. Schuman says it can help to practice what you will say. You can even role-play the event with your mom or dad.

Still, even with practice, there are times when you may feel a little uncomfortable socially. Let's face it--not everyone is going to grow up to be the next Jay Leno. There's no reason you have to be the life of the party, if that's not your style. "You should just be yourself," Feinberg says.

Kids and other readers can reach Emily Dwass at emilydwass@yahoo.com.

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