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My Shy Little Girl

Question and answer details
M (32_female_Egypt)
2014/04/14
I have a 4-years-old daughter. From the age of two years and half, I noticed that she is very shy. She takes hours to speak to people and even to interact with children when we visit relatives or friends. I suffer a lot to convince her just to say hello to anyone or reply any question. However, at home and with nearest relatives she is okay. The problem with her is strangers. I'm worried that she might be not good at school coz I imagine she will not have friends easily, and will not reply her teachers or interact as I wish. We also tried to make her practice kinds of sports so that she interacts with children and with her captain, but still, I have to press her every time to react and perform. Although she is practicing swimming and she loves it very much!I don't know exactly if this shyness has a reason behind it or it is just her character. But I think the problem increased after I had a second baby, as she is very jealous of him. I try to show her love and care, but she is very demanding. And this unjustified shyness makes me lose my temper sometimes and also her father gets very nervous because of her behavior when somebody talks to her and she just ignores and turns her face without saying a word.Please advise me, how can I help her interact with people and improve her social behavior?
Najma M. Adam, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.
Answer

As-salamu `alaikum dear sister,

Thank you for your valuable question. To properly advise you, it is important to have a few more questions answered. However, short of this, I’ll give you some general information and highly recommend that you take your daughter to a qualified mental health therapist for a full evaluation.

The additional questions you ought to be prepared to answer include:

  • Whether there were any medical health or impactful social events in your life when you carried her?
  • How was childbirth? Did you carry her to full term?
  • Did she successfully accomplish the milestones appropriate for her age as she developed?
  • Has she experienced any medical issues?
  • You state that her shyness developed after your second baby. How exactly did you notice this – what did she do? Being jealous of the newborn sibling is normal, but what exactly happened that you are correlating the birth of your son with her shyness?
  • Have you noticed under what circumstances your daughter seem to come out of her shell the most? How does she behave when she is not shy? Have you noticed if there are specific people or circumstances that make her less shy? In that moment when she is not as shy, have you asked her about why she is so shy? What is her response?

Based on what you described, and assuming that there are no medical issues that are at work, I would highly recommend being patient with her. It is very important that you accept her as she is right now and be sensitive to her feelings. She needs to feel accepted, without you, her dad or other adults in her life pushing her to be someone she cannot be – an extrovert – right now.

Let her know that you respect her by not making demands that she change to please you. By accepting her and being patient, you will build her self-esteem. This is especially critical for her at this age so affirm her as she is and do not make demands upon this little girl. She should not feel extra pressure or be burdened with the thought that she is unacceptable to the two most important people in her life – her parents.

Her shyness may also be related to her lack of social skills. It is important for her to be taught through role playing and modeling how to engage with others. Thus, when you play with her and her brother (or other children), model for her how to play with everyone.

Remember, she is always watching her environment for cues on what is appropriate. So continue letting her be present in social situations, but if she doesn’t utter a word to anyone, let her be. Your involving her means that she has an opportunity to observe social interactions and to eventually engage, if she decides to do that at any point.

It is important to let your daughter be allowed to follow her path. She sounds like she is just naturally shy (since you state that when she warms up to some people, she’s fine). This does not mean it will be a permanent situation, but it does mean that she needs your patience and support right now.

Related to this, I would like to commend you for being attentive to your daughter while she wrestles with having a brother. It is important that you (and her dad) continue being attentive to her. I would also encourage you to include her in playtime and activities related to her brother.

It is important that she feels secure in knowing that your love and attention are not being lost to her brother. By involving her in activities related to her brother (e.g. playing, reading, or feeding him) you are facilitating her relationship with him where she doesn’t perceive him as competition, but as a little brother whom she becomes invested in.

In sha’ Allah, pray, seek Allah’s guidance, be patient and continue helping her feel secure and affirmed.

 

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About the Counselor:

Najma M. Adam, Ph.D., L.C.S.W. is the Director of Adam & Associates Counseling Services, Inc. Dr. Adam has many years of experience and has taught at several universities in the Chicagoland area. She actively conducts research and publishes. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work and her Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. Further information about her can be found at www.adamandassociates.com.

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