My 4yo is shy in new situations or with people that she sees infrequently. She has this shy posture: one shoulder goes up to the ear, the bottom lip goes out, she won't make eye contact, etc. I feel like every response I've had to this has been the wrong one. I know she'll grow out of it to a certain extent (it's been an issue for about a year and a half, but we have noticed some changes/improvement), but I want to interact with her in a way that encourages her to be brave without pushing her too hard. I regret that we ever discussed any of this in front of her (telling others, "She's shy at first.") because she is now aware of it and has used our language in some manipulative situations. She once told my mother that the reason she was doing a bad job of thanking her close family members for birthday gifts was because she needed time to warm up. We'd been there for an hour and a half already, and she sees everyone there pretty frequently.
At birthday parties for her friends, I'm more casual and don't really care that much. If she doesn't want to participate in the pinata, what do I care? One real problem is swimming lessons. There's a new session of swimming every ten weeks during the fall/winter/spring and 5 two-week sessions in the summer. Almost every time, she has a new teacher. She has had repeat teachers, but rarely back to back. Most of the time, there's some shyness on the first day, and then it goes away. A few times, however, and one session for the entire session, the shyness persists. Do I let her sit it out? Encourage her to get in? Sit on the side right next to her lesson? Sit at a distance? It's frustrating because we're paying for it (unlike the birthday parties) and the lesson is only 30 minutes long. She doesn't really have time to warm up. Obviously she doesn't have to take swimming lessons, but she really does like them. The issue is meeting a new teacher and new classmates. Also, I feel like if I let her avoid all new and challenging situations, she'll never develop strategies for dealing with them.
What are some age appropriate strategies that you've had success with?