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Shy at School
Q: My five-year-old son is having a tough time in kindergarten. To start with, he is very shy outside of his home environment, but at home he's an outgoing child. His older sister was the same and is now slowly getting out of that stage.
He has been having crying spells at school. He wants to go to school, but minor events set him off. He seems to have already developed a perfectionist schema. He cried because he was tested and didn't know how he would fare, and it turns out he was at the top of the class.
He is not pressured at home, and his father and I aren't perfectionists.
A: The fact that he is very much like his older sister should give you hope that he will begin to come out of this stage just as she has. In the meantime, encourage him to try new things at which he may not be perfect. Playing on a soccer team or participating in a church group may help him get used to being with others. Since he is so shy, perhaps he could participate in a group with his sister or one in which you are involved.
If school staff members did not know your daughter at this stage, help them to understand that he will most likely become more comfortable in groups, just as she is now. Talk with his teacher to make sure that he or she will be understanding of his tears.
Ask the teacher to send you a daily note (could be as simple as a "smiley" face or checkmark) to let you know how his day was. On days when there were no tears, he could earn special time with you or another treat.
Talk with the school counselor. He or she may be able to give your son some individual time or include him in a small group. The school counselor may also be able to give him some positive support during the school day.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.