After a recent visit with some friends, I found myself wondering more about the featured Monday Mood for today. For most folks, you are either a people person or you are not. Most people enjoy the company of others. Some people would love to enjoy the company of others but they are hopelessly awkward and feel more comfortable in one-on-one or small group atmospheres (that is me... hopelessly awkward lol). However, social awkwardness should not be confused with shyness. Shyness is "the feeling of apprehension, lack of comfort, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, especially in new situations or with unfamiliar people." It can be a result of genetics, or a result of rearing.
When kids are shy, hiding their faces in their mother's neck or their father's pant leg, we chuckle and smile at how "cute" they are. Yeah, I get it. Some kids take a while to warm up to strangers. In itself, that isn't a terrible thing. Don't talk to strangers rule holds up well in such a situation. However, children should grow out of this behavior! Humans are social creatures. We rely on others in a give and take world that requires social interaction outside of giggling behind Daddy's knee. At a very minimum, kids need to feel comfortable addressing groups of people in a scripted, controlled environment (like a speech class). Children exhibiting extreme shyness as they progress through adolescence are at a huge disadvantage compared to their peers. If they can't speak in front of classmates they have known for 12 years, how on Earth are they going to manage sitting through an interview? Heaven forbid they walk into a panel interview!
In 1980, shyness was classified by the DSM-III as a rare social phobia. In 1994, the DSM-IV reworked it into commonly occurring social anxiety disorder (SAD). The prevalence of social anxiety disorder was in part due to doctoring by prescription-pushers looking for the next big drug wave. The actual numbers of those affected by SAD is unknown as those that truly suffer from the disorder are unlikely to visit a doctor's office for help in the first place!
Parents, pay attention to your child's behavior. What is cute now may develop into a very real problem later in life. Help them to develop social skills that allow for them to interact with society without feeling like the ugly duckling. Some kids really can't do it alone. If, despite your efforts, you find your kid entering grade school and still taking every opportunity to hide from your friends, your mother-in-law, and the neighbors, you might want to consult a doctor or therapist. You are your child's first champion and advocate.