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my dd, 2.5 yo, has a strong aversion to strangers. it's not just that she doesn't like them looking at her, nor talking to her - it seems to totally ruin her mood for a couple of hours if a stranger says Hi or even smiles at her.

i was shy too growing up, and i know how bad it feels around strangers.

is there anything i can do to help her? also please help me with ideas for how to explain to people. they usually say "oh, you're having a bad day" or "somebody's grumpy". and i end up saying, "she doesn't like to talk to strangers".

also any book suggestions to help her get through this? for me, it was a matter of self-confidence and not really knowing what to say to strangers, i guess you could call it social awkwardness. could it be that for my daughter? i've given her examples of the kinds of things she could do/say when strangers talk to her, and she agrees to do them, but when the moment comes she panics and gives them a dirty look instead, or buries her head in my leg. one time she screamed whenever people would look at her.

thanks in advance
 

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my older dd used to pre-emptively say "i'm NOT a pretty girl!" before anybody even said anything to her
! now, at 6, she's a regular chatterbox, although she does still like to stick close to mama. i'd just support her and say things like, "she doesn't feel like talking right now" leaving room for her to change her mind and one day maybe she will feel like talking.
 

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My middle child (ds) was what I called terminally shy. From about two months old if anyone made eye contact he would scream and be hard to calm down. I got to the point where I would just say out front (when he was a baby) "he is very shy so please don't make eye contact" and would usually follow it with something lighthearted to break the weird mood. I had to do it to save my son from being traumatized over and over. He didn't want to be very social as a preschooler and would prefer to have playdates at home. I honored him and his desires and did my best to assure him that people we don't know can often become friends. Luckily most every one realized quickly how intense it was and would respect him as well. He would hide in his room when guests would come over. Some would never even see him. We homeschool so there was never any pressure to become anything that he wasn't. I allowed him his feelings and his time to grow. He is now nine and although he doesn't like big social things and always ends up with one friend at any event, he is fine talking with strangers, ordering food etc. Meeting him now one would never think he was that same shy kid. When he was older and people would try to talk with him I would just simply say "he is shy" and most people left it at that. If they pushed it I would just say lightly "oh he will come around when he is ready" "or just ignore him and he'll be fine". Most people like a challenge so they would try to ignore him the best to win him over. It is really silly the way people would react to him. I am so glad I stood my ground even alienating people at times. I always figured they are adults and can get over it, he is a child that is developing and needs my support. I hope this helps in some way. He is now actually becoming quite a chatterbox and even outgoing in some situations.
:
Wendi
 

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our 2.5 year old boy is also hesitant around new people and places. when people attempt to talk to him that he doesn't want talking to him, i will say something like "he's unsure about new people" or "maybe he'll say hi next time we see you" i don't like to use the phrase "doesn;t like strangers" because reallym,most people we know now have been strangers at one time or another. i hope to teach him safe people to talk to and to follow his instincts about people he thinks might be unsafe. i really need to read that gavin debecker book...

does your daughter also refuse to go into new places? we go to weekly play dates at all different people's homes, and if he doesn't remember being at a place (which happens quite often since they rotate between about 6-8 houses), he will refuse to come in unless i carry him in (not so easy to do while slinging an almost 6 month old) and then will sit near me or on me for at least 30 minutes before feeling safe enough to explore toys and stuff. if a friend approaches him with an interesting toy and invites him to play, he will sometimes come but sometimes not. the only solution i have found is to simply wait it out.

~claudia
 

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Awww, 2.5 is still very little. A lot can change in a few months or years. My dd was/is also painfully shy. From the age of 3.5 mos., no one but my husband or I could hold her and a stranger looking at her could bring her to tears.

I worried so much that she would never talk to anyone or be able to play with other kids. Now, at almost 4, she has made huge strides. She is still quite shy, but she will finally answer questions that other adults ask her (i.e., our friends or her teachers). This was not always the case. She used to look away and not say anything. She still doesn't usually say hi to total strangers. I think that would be asking too much, but if it's an adult in a specific context, like teaching a class or say a zoo volunteer asking her name, she will respond.

I still worry about her a little and I do think she'll be like me, slow to make friends, but she'll be OK. Your little one will too! I don't know if there's anything we can do to speed their development. I tend to think they do these things when they are ready. I do try to acknowledge my dd's fears. That's something my mother never did for me and so I grew up thinking that it was abnormal to feel shy/scared. I wish my mom had told me some of her fears - she's shy just like I am and it might have helped me feel better about it. Sorry, it's late and I'm rambling now! HTH!
 

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Oh man, I struggle with this. My 3.5 year old daughter is super shy. My husband and I are not, so I have to work really hard to be gentle and understanding with her. She won't talk to adults or kids that she doesn't know, or even look at them. Many times it takes months before she'll speak to a new person. We've been going to our MDC playgroup for a year and there are still mamas she's never spoken to, I think.

I just tell people she's reserved - they seem to understand. I avoid the word shy when I can although she's heard herself labeled that and says it herself.
When she says she's feeling shy I tell her it's ok and that she's allowed to be. I try not to force her to talk to anyone. Occasionally I'll gently prompt her once or twice to respond to a question, but then I leave it alone. She's been going to lots of playgroups since she was 14 months old and I put her in gymnastics this year too. No joy....it takes her 25 minutes or so to go into the class. This is the third month she's been there (once a week), so I think we're going to pull her out even though she absolutely loves it once she works up the nerve to go in.

All I can say is no matter how much you try, shyness is not something you can "fix" for them. She's been like this since birth and I can't see a foreseeable end to it. In fact, I find the harder I push her to interact with new people, the more withdrawn she gets. It's so hard though not to push...I'm doing it because I want her to have fun, but I have to remind myself a LOT to back off and leave the poor kid alone. I really need to get a book or two about this....maybe that would be a good project for me tomorrow.


So yeah, I'm listening for advice myself.
 

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the book i would start with is "kids, parents, power struggles" by mary sheedy kurcinka. she talks about the cautious temperament trait amongst many many other types of temperaments.

if it persists and your child has issues as a schoolage kid there are several decent books about anxiety, but at this age i think it's just about understanding temperament (dc's and yours) and supporting your child in trying new things on his/her terms. be aware, though, that avoidance (in the schoolage child at least) can exacerbate anxiety.

personally, i'd stick with the gym class unless it's a financial hardship and try to get there early to ease her into it. a lot of cautious kids like to watch for awhile before joining. she may as well watch the previous class finish up y'know?

hth
 
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