Many see shyness as only a childhood experience. It’s not. Adults may be able to camouflage it better than children or simply avoid settings they find uncomfortable. But others have grown in courage and love when finding themselves in daunting social settings. Children don’t often have the liberty to avoid intimidating contexts nor do they have the insight to know how to be faithful in them. However, one of the most powerful ways you can help your shy child is by acknowledging your own anxiety. So often, children wrongly believe that they are the only ones who suffer from fear and insecurity in new settings and in larger groups. Reading stories like Sadie Finds Her Voice and especially biblical stories like Moses going before Pharaoh (Exodus 4) is a powerful way to help children.
Here are some additional insights to discuss with your child, especially before and after entering difficult settings.
1. When helping a child with shyness, it is crucial to help them identify their underlying fears.
Shyness fears being embarrassed or humiliated. Shyness feels insecure and inadequate. “What if others see me as dumb, ugly, or boring?!” Truly, Jesus understands the fears of being humiliated in front of others. The Bible says Jesus, “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV). In other words, Jesus tolerated the humiliation he experienced in his death and counted it as small in comparison to the joy before him. He pushed back the fear of other people’s thoughts as he, with both hands, gripped something greater—the joy of obedience to his heavenly Father by rescuing his people.
2. It is equally important to identify the desires that underlie shyness.
Shyness wants to win the approval of others. Shyness silently asks, “What do you think of me?” And thinks, “I want so much to be liked.” A vital step is to acknowledge and confess to the Lord, “I care too much about others’ opinions of me.” Tolerating shyness requires you to care more about something else—pleasing and obeying God rather than winning approval. In Hebrews we read, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6). An important goal is to say, “The opinion that matters most to me is God’s opinion. If he is pleased, people can think what they want. I care more about serving him and seeking good for others in this difficult setting.”
3. The secret to overcoming shyness is to change the focus from winning approval to loving and serving others-connecting with them in a way that seeks their good.
Philippians 2:4 says: “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” This shift in focus takes your eyes off your performance and how others see you. It takes you away from comparing yourself and competing with others. It changes the focus to what God sees and on doing what honors him—taking an interest in others. This simple change can be enough to move from a timid and self-protective posture to an active and loving one.
4. If your child is struggling with shyness, intimidating situations and settings should not be unnecessarily avoided.
When children avoid something that scares them (something not dangerous), the fear only grows stronger and more entrenched. For example, when Moses asked God to send someone else to go to Pharaoh, God did not change his mind. Instead, he said to Moses, “Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say” (Exodus 4:12). God not only kept Moses from hiding but also promised to go with and teach him in the very place where he was the weakest and most insecure. In the same way, help your shy child engage and navigate difficult settings. What does your child need to be successful? How can you help prepare and equip your child for faithfulness in these settings? Against his instincts, Moses went before Pharaoh. But God was merciful and sent Aaron, Moses’s older brother, with him. This much-needed “friend” came through Moses’s honest conversation with God.
5. When we are afraid, prayer is essential.
Prayer acknowledges to God our weakness and fear. It speaks boldly to “our merciful Father” (2 Corinthians 1:3) who is “always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Humility acknowledges, “I am weak!” Prayer looks to your merciful Father who delights to help his children in their weakness; it opens the door to the right kind of strength.
6. Here are some Bible verses to share with your child who is struggling with shyness.
Post these in your home or give them to your child to tuck in a pocket.
For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:5b–6
“No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.” John 5:44
“Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” Exodus 4:12
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3-4
The above content was adapted from Sadie Finds Her Voice © 2023 by Aaron Sironi. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.
Sadie Finds Her Voice
Sadie Bunny should be excited to stay overnight with her cousin Ivy. But instead, she is nervous. What if Ivy’s friends don’t like her? What if she can’t get any words out? But after a chance meeting with a scary cat piano teacher, armed with words from the Good Book, Sadie learns that Jesus can help even when you feel shy.