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How to handle shyness at Chinese New Year gatherings

manners & social norms
How to handle shyness at Chinese New Year gatherings

Chinese New Year is happening this weekend - which means our kids are going to interact with people they rarely see (or have never even met).

With unfamiliar faces around, it’s highly likely they’re going to:
- Hang back and not socialise immediately
- Bury their head in your legs
- Refuse to say hello

Typically, parents respond by saying: “Eh, why so shy? Say hello/go play/nothing to be scared about!”

The problem with “shy”

The thing is, it’s not that your kid is being shy - they’re simply taking some time to observe all the new-ness around them, and figure out what to make of the situation.

Labelling kids also backfires, since once that “shy” label is thrown out there, it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy - where the child now thinks: “Everyone keeps saying I’m shy, so I must be a shy, timid, unconfident person.”

What to do instead

The respectful way to respond is actually easier than most think - you just need to meet your kid where they are.

Try something like: "Yes, there’s a lot going on right now - lots of new faces in an unfamiliar environment! It makes sense you might want to observe for a bit. You can say hello when you're ready. In the meantime, I can say hi for both of us!"

Why this works

That short paragraph immediately wins because:
- It helps your child process why they may be feeling some reticence
- It shows them you don’t think there’s anything wrong with them - in fact, you deeply understand where they’re coming from and it all makes sense to you
- It “translates” their behaviour for the elder who’s expecting a greeting
- It still gets a greeting across (albeit not in the way they would’ve probably liked)

Now go forth and enjoy all the festivities! May the Year of the Dragon bring good health and parenting calm!