Shake Hands Say How Do You DoKacy Faulconer
I was a very shy child. My kids are shy—introverts, really. My son remained selectively mute for a year of preschool. New research shows that virtual training can reduce social anxiety. My kids deal with a little social anxiety. I think it’s within the realm of normal—but that’s because social anxiety is normal for me.
Virtually Better has developed a “game” for kids age 8-12 which simulates social interactions and teaches social behaviors such as how to make friend. This seems like a great tool. I hope it proves useful for children with severe distress that doesn’t go away. I’m skeptical, however, that people like me and my kids would gain much from programs like this.
My children play games that mimic and exemplify positive social interactions all the time. These games don’t make them any less nervous to shake hands and say how do you do. The only thing that has helped my kids is practice with real people.
Running drills at home and teaching my kids a set of manners that they can always fall back on when they are panicking or nervous has helped. A virtual program might be beneficial in modeling basic manners. But my kids aren’t shy of computers.
They’re “shy of people,” as Ellen says. The computer won’t produce the hot red face, the stammering, the nonplussed anxiety that an actual human conjures up in us shy folks. It doesn’t trigger the same response. I’d be interested to see how Virtually Better works. They start testing the 12-week program this summer with 30 children from Florida. I hope it helps!
More than that, I hope books like Susan’ Cain’s Quiet and Marti Olsen Laney’s The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child will educate others about shy or introverted people. We are not broken extroverts. We have our own strengths. I’ve dealt with “shyism” in school with my kids. I believe my kids need to participate politely. I work with them so they can behave themselves and contribute. They are bright, don’t struggle academically, and are not discipline problems. But I’ve been in parent conferences with teachers who simply don’t like them and have the impression that they are not smart because they are not outgoing. Not cool.