21 answers

My Teenage Daughter Is Extremely Shy....

My teenage daughter recently revealed her absolute terror of not having any friend. She is extremely shy and it is difficult for her to approach other teenagers in order to make friends. She struggles with her shyness in the classroom and feels that her embarassment (she blushes) is a sign of stupidity and people think she is wierd (her words). My daughter is very bright, intuitive, and very warm and engaging once you get to know her but I am afraid she has taken her shyness to a whole new level because of how hard she tries not to be nervous or shy....making sense? She is athletic, tall, and beautiful...not just my biased opinion...she is beautiful!!! but does not see herself as such. I am asking for any feedback.

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Thank you so much for the feedback. My daughter is turning 16 next month. She does play High School sports and she does volunteer work. I believe, as I have read, and have talked to ex-shy people, that the best feedback is getting her to think less about herself through volunteer and part-time work. I also remind her of the very best friend she has which most people don't have until they are much older. I am fortunate she does talk to me and she is not acting out in 'other ways'. I just want to make sure she keeps opening up to me and her best friend. I think her shyness does make her stand out but in a way that she does not like so she perceives herself as being 'wierd'. I love the comment about acting as if you are having a good time....that is helpful. I rarely use this sight and I am very grateful for the wonderful feedback.

Featured Answers

The book, "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship" by Natalie Madorsky has a chapter on shy kids with advice for parents on how to help them. There are exercises in the book that might be useful.

1 mom found this helpful

I was a super shy teenager and I joined the track team and made friends that way. can you get her in a sport on a team, it really makes a difference

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Hi M.,

I am currently reading a book called "Winning with People" by John Maxwell. In the book there is a story about a young woman who was too shy to approach new people. She was in a class (I can't remember what the class was), where after talking to her professor and telling him how lonely she was with no friends, he had the whole class do a "compliment assignment" for 30 days. The basis of the assignment was each student had to give 3 genuine compliments to someone every day. The results were really amazing, not just for the person who received the complement, but for the person who was giving them. Maybe 3 a day might be a lot for your daughter to start with, but if she started with 1 a day and then built up to 3 she would feel more comfortable. It's hard to be mean to someone who is being nice to you. The assignment really brought out the best in all the students, and most importantly helped the young lady gain confidence and see the awesome person she was. Hopefully that helps. Good luck!

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Hi M.,
Your daughter sounds exactly like me at that age and I now realize what my problem was, anxiety. At the age of 30 I was put on an anti-depressant (Paxil) and it changed my life. I realized that I wasn't crazy or wierd, I was just always worried about something or other. I just wish that I had had this knowledge while I was struggling through high school and without the assistance of medication. If I had had meds, I probably would have actually LIKED high school. Have her see a phychiatrist and see if she can try a SRI. I can tell you from my experience that for the first time in 30 years, I actually feel normal.

T.

1 mom found this helpful

The book, "The Unwritten Rules of Friendship" by Natalie Madorsky has a chapter on shy kids with advice for parents on how to help them. There are exercises in the book that might be useful.

1 mom found this helpful

I was shy or "quiet" when I was a kid (and still am). I always found that it was much easier to make friends in one-on-one situations. Group events, clubs, etc. never worked for me. And we are always our harshest critic: I look back at pictures of myself in High School and think I look pretty, but at the time I never did. There's always someone prettier and teens tend to see things as black and white - you're the prettiest or you're unattractive. I think it's also a self-esteem issue. I think it's good to be introspective and thoughtful but society does seem to reward the bubble personality or the individual who appears self-assured. Good-luck.

She sounds like 70% of my students in junior high. It's hard for them at that age to place their fears in the realm of "normal". Heaven forbid anyone be different. Have her volunteer. Work with younger kids, elderly, animals, recycling, whatever interest her and get to know people from that experience. As she thinks less about herself, her true personality will come out with her peers and she will be doing something good for others.

I asked my highschooler what advice she would give. We also live in the Santa Cruz area so I thought she could give a local perspective. Here is her advice:

If she's athletic, join a sports team. Instant friends! Even if she thinks the other girls are already in groups, it's not true. Invite a team mate, or two, over for a video night, or go to the mall to try on crazy outfits (she pointed out that there is a Dairy Queen and a Starbucks at our mall!), or something else fun.

Work/volunteer at a day camp. (my daughter volunteers at our church camp) You meet other kids your age, but in a way that you are focused on the little kids. No pressure.

Get to know your science partner if you have one, or other people you have to work in groups with at school. If you see them outside of class just say hi. See what they are doing at lunch and eat/go get lunch with them.

The last thing she said was that most people feel weird at some point and everyone wants to make friends. There are plenty of people that would like to be her friend.

I hope this teen perspective helps!

I have read that 'shy' is a negative word and should not be used to label someone just because that person has a different outlook than the rest of the world. Everyone has some unique personality and has a right to be who one is. When we label someone as shy, we imply that it is bad and make that person more conscious about his or her behavior though our intent may not be so. It is important to make such person comfortable with who he or she is. Whe we accept ourselves as we are,we accept other too as they are.

Some people are more cautious, perceptive, and sensative than others and take their time to warm up. They want to be able to trust others to share their inner true-self. They are authentic, respectful, compassionate, insightful, and nurturing just as your daughter is. Please accept her as she is and tell her that she is perfect just the way she is. Please do not label her as shy in front of others or let others label her so. Just highlight her wonderful qualities and offer her genuine praise. She will open up when she is ready and if she wants to. You can be your daughter's best friend and may find some books for her and may be there are other kids in neighborhood or school that me just be like her and get them together.

I myself have been labelled as shy and picky (selective as I say) as I am not comfortable in social situations or big crowds. I prefer one to one interaction and like to have genuine conversation. The few friends I have are my true friends whom I can count on anytime. My son was labelled as shy too even at young age of 2. The well meaning people suggested putting him in day care and do more playgroups with kids of his age. I respected my son's feelings and did not push him out there. People are so quick to label before letting the other person a chance to know you. So when anyone told me, he is so shy, I would say - actually he is very friendly and engaging. He just needs time to warm up with you. Hope this helps.

-R.

I am quite shy now and was a very shy teenager. I feel like I spent years as an adult 'learning' how to behave in social situations. So looking back, I'd say it would have been very helpful to me to have someone giving me advice about how to gradually get through these situations, e.g. learning to make small talk etc. So that is my suggestion :)

E.

Hi M.,

First of all let your daughter know that being shy is not stupid. I was shy growing up and wanted to be open and do more but I was afraid that I would do something wrong or say the wrong thing and people would not like me. I found hobbies so I could interact with others with the same interest and it made it easier to make friends.

She will out grow it as she starts to get more comfortable with herself.

Being shy is not a bad thing.

Have a great week.

N. Marie

I am curious about what she thinks causes people to think she is "weird". They may not think this at all, of course, but if they do, I wonder if it is simply because she keeps to herself or because she is very quiet...
I was very quiet, and had no very close friends as a teen, but there were many people in different social groups who were friendly to me. I used to blush very easily, but I don't recall worrying too much about what people thought.
But quiet shy teens aren't exactly the norm---many of them are so boisterous! So just being shy could make her stand out, that much is true.

The school counselor may be able to help---and may say that many other kids feel the same way! Also teachers are sometimes very observant; if there is a teacher she trusts, the teacher may be able to suggest other students who may be compatible with her personality, and she could just sit next to one sometime, and ask them a question related to class, for example.

Your daughter should know that she doesn't necessarily need to approach people, specifically to find friends. If she focuses on just doing things she enjoys, people may approach her instead! A person who looks like she is having a good time is a natural magnet.

If she really is a beauty, there is probably at least one boy with a crush on her--and maybe he is shy too. She should keep an eye out for that.

Activities outside of school, lessons, camp, etc., can be a good practice area for social skills, without the risk of being stuck with the people during the school year if something goes wrong.

One thing that helps for introverts, I think, is new life experiences. Travel, for example, or volunteer work with the less fortunate. Anything that expands a young person's horizons, and takes them outside of their inner world, to focus on other people, or other things.

Your daughter sounds a lot like I was when I was in school. I didn't have many friends, but I did have a few. I know i did better in smaller groups. Maybe you can find some sort of class or club for her to join to make some friends. Girl scouts, kids cooking classes, dance, something where there's a smaller group and they are all focused on the same thing so she has a mutual interest to help break the ice. Church is a wonderful place to make friends!

Being shy is very hard, especially when you are a teen a oh so self conscious. Though this may sound like very familiar advice, have her join a sports team and some type of class at school which is social. At my daughter's school, "leadership" is a great way of getting to know people and they are involved in coordinating all the school events. Via their jobs in this class they get to know other kids. Another good way of breaking the ice without trying is a sports team. You mentioned that she is athletic. Try volleyball, soccer, or whatever it is that she is interested. Girls sports are huge now and there is something there for everyone. If she is in high school, there are many, many clubs. One step at a time. Then she can start eating lunch with some of the kids she meets through her classes or teams and then go out for ice cream. Baby steps lead to real friendships vs something which happens all at once.

im having the same problem with my 15 year old if someone says hi shell say hi but thats it. she eats lunch with her brother but she started letting him stay with his friends and now she just feels lonely

If she enjoys athletics, encourage her to join a sport at school, and/or sign her up with a team at the Y, or with a community sports team. If she enjoys playing, she will meet other girls who are also athletic and enjoy sports, and she'll be able to make friends more easily. Organized sports will be good for her self-esteem, her self-confidence, and for her health, and will put her in with a group of teenage girls who are less likely to be drinking and drugging and having sex in order to "be popular."

She might also benefit from counseling, because she might need help expressing herself, and understanding the reasons for her shyness, and a therapist might be able to help her see herself more objectively.

Dear M.,

You did not say how old your daughter is, but I agree with the other responder to encourage your daughter to sign up for a sport. Having a common goal (training or playing together) goes a long way in breaking the ice. Also, encourage her to place her own orders at restaurants and buying tickets, etc. to help her boost her confidence. I am sure her classmates, if they think anything, think of her as shy, not weird! From one shy girl to another- it gets better and easier! I am not half so shy now as I was when I was 13-15.

How about signing her up for theater? It's a great way for kids to come out of themselves.

I am also very tall and in junior high I was painfully shy, convinced that people thought I was weird. Sometimes, putting yourself way, way outside of your comfort zone is what you need to do. For me, it was trying out for the cheerleading squad. (I know, the exact opposite of what you'd expect of a very shy person! My knees were shaking and I felt like I was going to throw up during my tryout!) I made the team and never looked back after that. The captain later told me that she thought I was simply very, very confident and that's why I didn't talk to anybody before the tryouts. Ha!! People see what they want to see.

It's strange, because I think that people ASSUMED that I must be outgoing in order to be a cheerleader (actually, I was just a good actress and dancer =). And if people assume you are outgoing... they do start to treat you like the life of the party, whether you are or not!

To this day, I'd still rather sit home with a good book than go hang out with people - I think overcoming shyness is more about acting than anything else. But like everything in life, learning to be a social person just takes more practice for some of us. You just have to keep at it day after day. That's my two cents - hope it helps!

It would be good for her to join some clubs at school and or join a reading program where older kids read to younger ones. That would help her to learn to talk in front of others.

This msg might be a duplicate. I didn't get a "sent" confirmation...
Your request brought a smile and fond memories to me. This incident happened a number of years ago--something you might try, amending it in some way to fit your situation. One day a woman, whom I had never met, came to my door and explained that she had twin daughters who were painfully shy. She had come to my house because, "after doing some research" she had found out that my daughter was class president and one of the most popular girls in school (all 3 were juniors in high school at the time). The woman, Mrs. G., wanted, first of all, to bring her girls by to meet my daughter--and then to ask, point blank, if my daughter would please take her twins "under her wing," maybe not to make them popular but at least to be a friend from the in-crowd. I'm sure the twins were embarrassed that their mom would be so forward (now we would say "proactive," hmmm ;). (For Mrs. G, "just anyone" would not do, she wanted the most popular girl she could find!) Fortunately my daughter had a soft spot for the underdogs of the world, and she made it her personal mandate to include the twins in numerous hs activities and in her own circle of friends. In fact, the two families became fairly good friends and remained so for 6 or 8 years, when we simply lost track of each other. The last time I saw the twins, they were working as clerks in a department store, and one was engaged to be married.
Other than you going up and knocking on doors, as Mrs G did, and since your daughter is already involved in athletics (I would have suggested karate lessons or a swim team), how about getting her involved in some teen volunteer projects--something to take her focus off herself. ("The best way to find a friend is first to be one.") Or, on the other end of the scale, how about enrolling her in a modeling class, where she learns absolutely to make the most of what she has?
Good luck!

I just wanted to say I feel for your daughter. I too was extremely shy in school and did not have many friends. (I had maybe 2 close friends) I'm SURE many many other kids that she goes to high school with are feeling the same way (in terms of not having many friends or feeling like they don't fit anywhere), they may just be better at hiding that. It sounds like you've gotten some good advice here. I only wanted to add one more. Perhaps she can get a summer job as a camp counselor or lifeguard, something where she is with some other kids her age (outside of the pressures of fitting in in high school) and it may bring her out of her shell a bit.
How lucky you are to have a daughter who feels comfortable enough confiding in you--it sounds like you are doing a great job!!

I was a super shy teenager and I joined the track team and made friends that way. can you get her in a sport on a team, it really makes a difference

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