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Very shy /socially anxious 5yo

(18 Posts)
MsMermaid Wed 26-Aug-15 16:03:01

I'm looking for advice about helping my 5yo DD to overcome her extreme shyness/social anxiety. If that advice can help a less extreme case of shyness in her teenage sister as well then that would be amazing.

Dd2 is more than just averagely shy, which I know is perfectly normal in young children, not quite into the same league as being selectively mute but almost. She is about to go into year 1 and struggled massively with reception, it took 3 weeks til she would talk to anyone at school, but she did do it eventually, then she had a change of teacher half way through the year which set her back, then they moved the children to different classes for phonics, then maths has been with a different teacher as well. Each of these things have been hugely stressful for her. She also isn't managing to show school what she is capable of because she is so stressed by talking to them she can't concentrate on her reading, writing, etc. So at school she's reading books from the blue book band, yet books she can read from the library are much harder, which again I know can be normal but is very frustrating nonetheless.

Our challenge this week has been swimming lessons. She wants to have swimming lessons, she loves swimming, is very confident in the water, can swim 20m, jumps in etc. I don't know how to go much further with her swimming by myself so to improve she needs lessons. So I booked her in for a week long course, having explained what she can do to get the right level, stage 3 we were told. Monday arrived, we went to her first lesson and she froze completely, cried, and refused to get in the water for about 15 mins of a half hour lesson. When she did get in she would only swim if I was at the other side of the pool. We discussed it, very much in the way of me wanting to help her understand and overcome her fear (it is proper fear, her heart was pounding and she was shaking). We came up with 5 targets for her to try, some easy and some harder, with rewards for each one based on how hard she finds them. None of these targets are about swimming, they are all things like smile at the teacher, manage the lesson without crying, etc. She has got a lot better in these 3 days, even though she's had a different teacher each day (absolute nightmare for a shy child). She hasn't yet managed to talk to the teacher, but might have done if it had been the same teacher every day. Now we've been advised to put her in stage 1 lessons, which are for non swimmers, just building water confidence. But it's not water confidence that's the problem, it's people confidence, which has been knocked by the 3 different teachers, with 3 different styles. So do I put her into stage 1 which is too easy swimming wise to build her confidence with having lessons then move up to probably a different teacher just as she's got used to one person, go for stage 2 which is still too easy swimming wise but has the same teacher for stage 3 when she's ready to move up, or try 121 lessons where she can stay with the same teacher for a long time but never has lo learn how to deal with other children in the lesson?

If you've read all that I'm amazed. What would you do? If you've successfully helped your child get out the other side of this extreme shyness how did you do it? I don't think she'll just grow out of it, dd1 hasn't and she was nowhere near this bad at 5.

Ferguson Wed 26-Aug-15 23:19:30

Yes, Dear, it was a lot to read - try to condense in future!

I don't know why so many parents get hung up on swimming, when children are that young. She has a whole lifetime in which to learn to swim. So I would drop the swimming, and anything else that is not essential and that stresses her out.

Concentrate on what REALLY matters, which is building her confidence in school and with other children and adults.

I'll come back sometime to find out more about her interests and abilities.

flotillas70 Wed 26-Aug-15 23:23:44

Can your GP find her a therapist?

MsMermaid Wed 26-Aug-15 23:43:35

I know it was long. Sorry.

I don't want to drop swimming because she wants to do swimming lessons. What I'm after is a way to help her cope with the social side of doing the things she wants to do. I know that school is important, but she does have friends there, and she says she's feeling confident about moving classes. So I'm hoping school won't be such an issue this year.

I'd rather try to sort things ourselves before trying to find a therapist. Mainly because speaking to a therapist would cause as much upset and stress as any other activity would, because it's someone new.

MsMermaid Wed 26-Aug-15 23:54:44

Ferguson, how can I build her confidence with adults and other children while also dropping anything non essential that stresses her out? Once she knows someone, she stops being stressed, so I don't know how to help her deal with meeting new people without getting her involved in non essential activities.

This is not a new problem by any means, it's something we've been working on since she was really tiny. It's just that it's now affecting what she can join in with, and she doesn't look as if she's growing out of it any time soon.

ninja Thu 27-Aug-15 00:11:55

Can you afford one to one swimming lessons? Get her used to a just a teacher and then when she's used to the teacher look at moving her into group ones?

MsMermaid Thu 27-Aug-15 00:16:05

I'm looking into that ninja. I'm sure we can afford it, I'm not sure how long the waiting lists are. I am starting to think that's what I should have done in the first place, but it was never even mentioned as a possibility by anyone at the pool.

Ferguson Thu 27-Aug-15 22:59:16

OP - what Yr group does she go into when school starts again? What were her end of year reports like, and what subjects is she really good at, what less good, and what other activities does she do?

I was a primary TA for twenty years, also voluntary helper when I retired. I never liked school myself when I was a child, so I have tried to be sympathetic with the more sensitive children I have worked with. Obviously one cannot 'teach' confidence as such, but just try to demonstrate that fears and insecurities are not really as insurmountable as children perceive them to be.

And if she can EXPLAIN to you how she feels, and what she thinks might cause the fears might help. Also, could she do a 'role play' type activity for you, using her dolls or teddies, which might shed some light on her feelings.

Contemplating a therapist seems rather extreme, so I hope it won't come to that; but on the other hand if lack of confidence prevents her functioning normally in school, I suppose you have to tackle the problem. What pastoral support is there at school, or could you seek advice from a SENCo?

OnlyHereToday Thu 27-Aug-15 23:12:17

Trying to think if any of the What To Do Series of books by Heubner might help, maybe what to do when you worry too much but not sure that is quite right.

I would definitely try 1-2-1 lessons and basically just keep talking about what might help. And get her whatever books there are out there that show her there are others who feel like she does.

AliMonkey Thu 27-Aug-15 23:36:55

DS has similar problems, although he also has selective mutism (which as far as I am concerned is just a symptom of the wider issue).

I too am looking for solutions but some things I have found can help are:
1. Small steps - so instead of starting a swimming class I might first try taking him swimming at the same time as a class is going on so he can see what happens and get used to the idea. (Having said that I have not yet managed to get him or his more confident older sister to agree to have swimming lessons!)
2. If he doesn't want to do something, he often gets really worked up and almost can't change his mind. So I give him a "way out", eg "oh I see, you want to go to the party but want to wear your sandals not shoes" when that wasn't really the issue but somehow it gives him a way to agree without losing face.
3. Take off the pressure. The more he feels forced to do something the less likely he is to do it.

Really though it's about finding strategies that he can learn. The school SENCO got in the council's ed psych who was very helpful in suggesting strategies for us and school staff to use, so might be worth talking to SENCO. DH was very reluctant as didn't want DS "labelled" but now agrees it was a good idea.

MsMermaid Fri 28-Aug-15 17:17:14

Thank you all for the messages.

She goes into yr1 when school starts again, so she is still very little. She actually says she likes school, which I'm very grateful for, and she has a few friends. School have been very understanding and supportive of her. I think she is the shyest child they've had in recent years (possibly ever) and they are doing a lot with her to help build her confidence. She was given special visits to her new classroom and teacher before the holidays to try to ease the transition.

Her report was very good at the end of the year. She's good at reading, writing, numbers, and pe.

london32 Fri 28-Aug-15 17:21:31

Sounds like my sister who has aspergers (wasn't diagnosed until 10yr after bipolar diagnosis).
See an ed psych ASAP and read up on autism type things. I don't think this sounds normal this degree in a 5yr girl

MsMermaid Fri 28-Aug-15 17:25:22

We have persevered with the swimming lessons this week. Yesterday she did brilliantly, got in without a fuss, followed instructions as long as she could do it in her own time, didn't cry once! She got a little toy motorcycle as her reward for trying so hard. Today was not quite so good, she did a bit but stopped as soon as she noticed anyone looking at her confused

She has asked to keep going to lessons, so I've booked some weekly 1-2-1 lessons til half term, with the hope that she'll find that easier than group lessons. The teacher will be the one she liked the best from this week, and I'm amazed she had a weekly slot free because she was really nice.

MsMermaid Fri 28-Aug-15 17:30:07

She doesn't have any other indicators for aspergers though London. I haven't ruled it out by any means, but I do think it's extreme shyness, her social skills are very good with trusted people.

MsMermaid Sat 29-Aug-15 11:54:30

She had her first 1-2-1 lesson today and it went really well. She has come so far from Monday when she wouldn't even get in because new people were talking to her. This is only 1 thing, and I know that she's going to have loads more challenges with meeting new people in new situations, but I'm feeling quite positive about it today.

I found a book at the library about it too, a self help book called "help your child overcome shyness and social anxiety", I've read the first few chapters already and the description of social anxiety sounds exactly like her, the shyness description fits dd1 as well so I'm probably going to try getting her involved too, so she can develop more confidence in putting her views across. It's like CBT for children by their parents rather than a therapist (which I think would be overkill when camhs is overstretched with more serious issues)

MsMermaid Sat 12-Sep-15 10:46:09

I have major successes to report this week grin. Dd2 has gone to school happily all week, and she spoke to both her teacher and ta every day! She has even read to a parent volunteer that she's never met!

And she is currently in a swimming lesson, 1-2-1, where she has let me go to the spectator area rather than sitting poolside! She's smiling and happy, and even spoke to the instructor when she asked about school.

It's such a difference in her, in only a few weeks. smile She's been really grumpy at home after school, but I think she'll get more relaxed and content in a little while.

idareyou Fri 18-Sep-15 19:44:37

Hi ms mermaid - just come across this thread. My nearly five year old ds displays a lot of the things you describe and struggles so much with saying hello/goodbye even to people he has known all his life. He has just started reception. Going to try find that self help book you mentioned up thread. Just wanted to say that I'm glad it's going so well as it has given me hope that my ds will get there.

MintyChops Wed 23-Sep-15 04:06:26

Hi MsMermaid, this thread has also helped me. I have a very shy DS aged 6, he sounds much like your DD. I am going to get that book too. Hope the swimming lessons are going well and your DD is enjoying it.

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