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Extremely shy 3 year old
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Extremely shy 3 year old

My 3 and 1/2 year old daughter is very shy. She has exhibited shy traits for much of her life but I am now starting to worry about her shyness. She is very comfortable with people whom she is close but whenever she is in a new situation or a situation with anyone who is not in her inner circle she clings to me and won't look at anyone. If i move away from her, even if it is ten feet away she throws a full out tantrum. I have tried to expose her to several social situations: we do a play group once a week, she has taken swim classes and she attended a home daycare for 2 years. She is great in each of those situations, she plays with her friends and interacts with the adults. Recently she started dance and preschool and both of those situation have been stressful for me and her. She screams each day that I leave her at preschool. She will have a huge smile the entire way to preschool but then when we get there the smile turns to tears. I thought that she would be comfortable at preschool as she has a friend that goes to the same school but she won't even talk to him there. Also she takes dance class with one of her good friends but refuses to do anything unless her friend is by her side. She has an inner core of close friends but beyond that she will not meet new people and does not care to meet new friends. For example she went to one of her close friends birthday parties recently and she knew half of the kids but did not know the other half so she clung to me and screamed whenever I moved the slightest bit away from her. She would not interact with any of the kids and did not care to get to know who any of them were. She was even upset because she wanted her good friend to play with just her but her friend was too busy playing with all the party goers to pay attention to just my daughter which upset her. This worries me because I don't want her to feel left out by her friends. I am finding her shyness/separation issues to be very difficult for me as she won't even go to my husband in social situations; she will only cling to me and she will cry if I ask her to stay with Daddy. This is a huge challenge as I also have a 1 and 1/2 year old and a 2 month old who I have to care for when we are out and about.

My daughter is extremely bright and at home she is caring, funny, engaging and talkative but as soon as we get somewhere unfamiliar all that goes out the window and she clams up. How can I encourage her to make new friends and to experience life away from the clutch of my leg?
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From your description, your child is not shy; your child is suffering from anxiety.  Shy children are able to function in social situations; children suffering from anxiety are not able to function (and the description in your post would indicate the latter).  If your daughter is suffering from anxiety, then you will require professional help.

I might suggest you google the term "childhood anxiety" or "social anxiety" or similar phrases to find more information about this disorder.  Then, you need to contact your daughter's pediatrician and ask for advice and  how to help your daughter learn to manage her stresses/fears/anxieties.  If your family doctor is unable to help, then ask for a referral to a person with experience in anxiety issues.  At her young age, usually intervention and possibly therapy (as play or art) are the appropriate methods of treatment.  Let me assure you that if anxiety is the issue, your daughter will not outgrow it nor will it go away.  But an early diagnosis and treatment usually means an excellent prognosis.  It would be best to have this issue somewhat resolved before your daughter begins school full-time (I say "somewhat" as anxiety never completely goes away, people learn to manage and control their fears, etc.)

Your daughter is not refusing to play and meet new friends or refusing to speak to others; her anxiety prevents her from doing so - she is unable to do these things in a perceived unsafe environment.  She is trying to survive the best way she knows how by crying, screaming and clinging to you.  By the way, the "not speaking" at preschool can indicate a severe form of social anxiety called selective mutism.  The best site on the internet is "selectivemutism.org" and it might we wise if you read the FAQ's first and then peruse the rest of the site.  If possible, you do not want your daughter's social anxiety to escalate to the severity of anxiety in selectively mute children (I know as our child was mute in school for several years).

If your child is suffering from anxiety, nothing you or anyone else did caused this issue.  Anxiety is a genetic trait (usually donated by both parents) - similar to the colour of a child's hair.  I hope this reply has not overwhelmed you - we have been on this path for several years now - but, there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel.  If you are questioning this information, please post on the "ask a doctor" forum to get professional advice.  I wish you the best ....
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My daughter is almost 3 and acts the same way.  We havent tried to get her in activities because, well, I guess I dont want her to feel afraid.  How do we get her slowly involved in activities.  She talks all the time about "friends" and "school", but when she's even around my little cousisns, she clings to me.  We see Grandparents a couple times a year and it takes her about a day to feel comfortable, but I still have to be near enough for her to see me.  Since she was born she's only been around me mostly, Daddy between work, and family everyonce in awhile.  She has no friends her age.  SHe's extremely smart, funny, athletic, but like your situation, it's only at home.  We brag about how well she can carry on a conversation, but then when we are out, I have to translate.   One time at a 'Jump in Jive" activity center she tried to approach a little girl, but the little girl walked away.  Her feelings were soo hurt.  But in noticed she approached her like an adult.  She stuck out her hand and said my name is------, what's yours?  So it wasnt' really a "kid" way to say hi I guess.
So, I relate to what you are going thru.  Please update me on what you learn on this, and I will do the same.
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I have answered this on your other post, Sorry, I still believe that this is a behavioral issue but an evalution cant hurt if you are worried,try to adjust the dynamics between you first.
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Our daughter is the same.  It helps to know there are others out there dealing with this.  It's extremely frustrating to see all the other kids just jump in and have fun, while our daughter clings to me.  The only time she participates is when she is familiar with the place and activity.  She doesn't speak in public, but has been extremely verbal from a very early age.  My daughter is also extremely bright, and our pediatrician says it's just her overactive brain.  She also has 'friends' and even an imaginary sister.  The anxiety sounds like something I want to follow up on.  Thanks for the letters.
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