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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

10 Tips When Meeting a Shy Child

When my youngest daughter was young, she was shy. People who know her now would probably laugh at that because she's a talkative, confident young woman today. But as a child, she often lowered her gaze or even hid behind me when meeting someone for the first time. Sometimes she  refused to speak when spoken to or would whisper in my ear what she wanted to say. One day, her teacher pulled me aside after her first month of preschool and asked me if I thought she was happy there. I was shocked. My little angel happily chattered away every day telling me all the things she had done at school. Come to find out, she hadn't done any of them, but rather observed the other children doing them while she stood on the sidelines. I could tell she loved her class and I assured her teacher she was very happy there. Gradually, she observed less and participated more.

Most children are shy, at least under certain circumstances. How should adults respond when meeting such a child? With good humor and respect. Here are a few guidelines I found helpful when meeting shy children.
  1. Speak directly to the child, asking an easy question. This allows him to have confidence in answering. Yes or no questions may be helpful at first so they can respond with a head nod or shake if they want. 
  2. Be understanding. When a child doesn't want to talk or even make eye contact with you, accept it. Say something to put them at ease, such as, "That's OK. I don't always feel like talking to people either." This puts you in the child's corner and earns his trust.
  3. Give the child space. Don't keep trying to get the child to talk. Back off. Move at his pace. When he's more comfortable with you, he'll likely be happy to talk to you. It may take several encounters before that happens. Be patient. When it does, you'll have a friend for life.
  4. Avoid labeling the child. Saying things like, "He's so shy!" or "You're a bashful one!" only makes the child more uncomfortable. Empathize (see #2), don't label.
  5. Respect the child.  This is the bottom line and ties into point #4 about not labeling. Shy people, regardless of their age, shouldn't have to justify their God-given personalities any more than more talkative people do. I mean, really, shy people never say to talkative people, "You're sure a noisy one" or "Do you ever quit talking?" even if they sometimes feel like it! Accept children (and adults!) for who they are.
  6. Don't bribe. If a child isn't ready to talk, don't offer him something (i.e. candy) to try to get him to like you. This flies in the face of all the safety rules children are taught. Respect that he isn't ready and direct your attention elsewhere.
  7. Smile. Let them know you're not mad that they won't talk to you. Be friendly.
  8. Accept whatever friendship the child offers. Maybe he'll give you furtive glances. Smile when he does, or play a game of peek-a-boo with him. He may bring you a toy. Look it over well and make conversation about it. Enter his world. Don't make him enter yours.
  9. Bring a gift if you know the child's interests. It can be a good conversation starter between the two of you. This isn't the same as bribing because the gift is given outright, with no strings attached, rather than on the condition that he talk to you. 
  10. Be gentle. Quiet children are often intimidated or frightened by people who come on too strong. So don't try to tickle, grab, or tease a child out of his shell. It will only make him back further into it.
Next time you meet a shy child, try out some of these tips and see if they don't help him warm up to you. Then remember, when a child offers you his friendship, it's a sweet gift that shouldn't be taken lightly.

What tips have you found helpful in dealing with shy children? If you're a parent of a shy child, what have people done (or not done) to help your child in uncomfortable situations?


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Hospitable Introvert

By nature, I am an introvert. I tend to avoid people and I recharge by having time alone. That doesn't mean I don't enjoy people when I'm with them. As a matter of fact, most people would be surprised to know that I'm an introvert. Like many, I married someone who is my opposite. Rollin's extroverted nature more than makes up for my introversion.

Because my husband is so social, I've learned to be more social. At first it was uncomfortable. But wonder of wonders, I've actually come to enjoy hosting people in my home. It's something Rollin and I love doing together, and well, we're GOOD at it! We've actually been told we have the "gift of hospitality." Shut up!

So, for all you introverts out there, who sometimes have to host social events or house people overnight, there's hope. Here are a few hospitality tips I've learned along the introverted way.
  1. No one cares if your house is spotless. If your bathroom is cleaner than most gas station restrooms, you're good. No one is coming to inspect your housekeeping skills. They're coming to enjoy your company. And honestly, who wants neat freaks for friends? It only makes them feel like they have to clean to the nth degree when they have you over.
  2. Greet your guests warmly. I usually meet them at the door and give them a hug if I know them, or if not, then a two-handed handshake or one with a friendly pat on the back tells them you're genuinely glad they're in your home. The same applies to when you bid them farewell.
  3. Keep it simple. For the introvert, being with people expends energy, leaving you tired. Use paper plates, cups, etc. so you don't have to spend hours cleaning up when you're exhausted after having people over. 
  4. Have groups of people over rather than just one other couple. Conversations can get awkward or drag with a small group.  But with a larger group, you don't feel the pressure of having to carry the conversation. People can talk with each other instead of just with you.
  5. Serve food buffet style. It's nice and casual and puts people at ease. Better yet, make it a potluck where everyone brings something to share. It takes some of the pressure off you in a situation where you may already feel stressed. And don't feel like it has to be a full meal. Snack foods often work just fine. 
  6. If you're having overnight guests, do something to make them feel loved. A mint (or in some of my friends' cases, a box of Red Vines) on their pillow is a fun touch. Or fresh flowers on their night stand. Or how about a note saying how glad you are they've come to visit? Whatever they like, try to make it  happen for them. See this lovely picture of a bedroom? My house never looks this good, company or not. Yours doesn't need to either. 
  7. Make them feel at home. By that I mean, let them fix their own breakfast. I usually tell them that at our house it's pretty much every man for himself. If they get hungry, they're welcome to scrounge around in the pantry or fridge. Nothing makes me happier than when people come into my home and pull out a glass from the cabinet or dishwasher and pour themselves a glass of iced tea. It means I've done a good job of making them feel comfortable in the past. Let them know what's available for breakfast in case they get up before you. I like to keep bagels, dry cereal, bread for toast, juice, and coffee on hand. Or buy a box of donuts the night before to have ready for breakfast.
  8. Make their bathroom user friendly. Put a hair dryer and curling iron under the sink for their use. Have extra toothbrushes and toothpaste on hand in case your guest forgot theirs.
  9. Don't live on each other's schedules. This is especially true if your visitors are from another time zone. If one of you wants to sleep later in the morning or stay up later at night, do it. Accept and respect each other's need for sleep, or lack thereof. This also gives your introverted self some space and time to recharge if needed. 
  10. Be honest. If you're worn to a nub and everyone else wants to spend the afternoon at the zoo, say you'll sit this one out and get in a nap or soak up some solitude while they're gone. No guilt allowed.
  11. Give them an extra key to the house. That way they can come and go without you if they want. You don't have to spend your every waking moment together, which wears thin on introverts.
  12. Ask for their help. If you need an extra table set up, potatoes peeled, or the patio swept, let them help you. Most people love feeling needed and this makes them feel part of the family. 
The only way to take care of your guests well is to take care of yourself. That means making time to recharge and get plenty of rest, even while you have guests. If you do, your company will enjoy their visit even more, and will relax into the comfort of your home, too. Our house has jokingly become known as the Ritz Carlblom because we keep so many visitors overnight and host so many social events at our house. It's one way we can share our blessings with others. Hopefully, they leave here feeling refreshed and loved.

I pray these suggestions will help you enjoy entertaining your friends no matter your personality type. Just relax and enjoy your company and they'll relax and enjoy being in your home. 

What do you do to make people feel at home when they visit? Share your ideas in the comment section.