Respect his need for alone time. Resist the urge to overschedule him or sign him up for group activities that you think will hone his people skills, says Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., a psychologist in Portland, Oregon, and the author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World ($15, amazon.com).
Get to large gatherings early. That way, your child can adjust as the noise and the crowd build, says Bernardo J. Carducci, a professor of psychology and the director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast, in New Albany.
Talk through social situations beforehand. “Be upbeat and say, ‘We’re going to the swim party. You might know some people there, and you might not know others. You can stand by me and go play when you’re ready,’ ” says Betsy Brown Braun, a child-development and behavior specialist in Pacific Palisades, California, and the author of You’re Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your Four- to Twelve-Year-Old Child ($16, amazon.com). “If he winds up joining in, on the way home say, ‘I know it took you a while to warm up, but you seemed to have fun. You must feel good about that.’ Don’t say, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ It’s not about you—it’s about your child.”
Help him take a break. On the other hand, if he’s getting drained at a gathering, advises Laney, “Say something like ‘You look pooped. Let’s stroll down the block.’ ”