Beth - Lonely because of move

Dear Shykids  I am 14 years old, and I've been somewhat shy all my life. When I'm at home, I am totally outgoing, loud, and I have all the confidence in the world. Even when I'm out in public, as long as I'm with my family, I'm fine. But when I'm at school, or away from my family, it's like I'm a totally different person. When I want to talk, I can't. I try to, but no sound comes out and when it does, I barely manage louder than a whisper. I don't have many friends because of this because I can't reach out to people and let them know that I'm interested in being their friend. This never was a really big deal because I had lived in one state all my life and had come to know people without talking. But over the past 2 years, we moved to another state, my father died, and I started high school. 
 I hang out by myself a lot because no one is interested in hanging out with someone  who doesn't talk to them. The few friends that I have made here I feel like I'm losing because I  don't have any classes with them, and I only see one of them at lunch and she's made new friends kind of dissing me. I just want to be able to be the outgoing person that I feel is the real me when I'm at school. I'm  scared that when I go out to start my career, I'll still be the kid who looks at the floor and has to repeat herself 6 times before people tell me to write it down or just forget it. Please help. Beth

Dear Beth, It sounds like you've had a rough couple of years with moving and your dad dying. Keep that in mind and try not to be so hard on yourself.

Your ability to be totally outgoing at home and just the opposite when you're away from your family is really common in kids who tend to be shy. When you're with your family, you're probably not very worried about what they think about your hair or clothes or if you say something silly. When you're with peers in school or talking to teachers, your thoughts are most certainly about what the people around you are thinking about you. As long as you're feeling self-conscious and your thoughts are about how people are reacting to you, your shy behavior will continue.

When you are in school, with teachers or other kids, you need to begin to practice stopping yourself from thinking about if you hair is in place, if you look okay in your new jeans, if you sweater is too tight, if what you're going to say is okay, etc...The only way to do this is to make a very real and very conscious effort to stop. It is nearly impossible to 1. think about yourself and 2. listen to a friend talking to you at the same time. Try to imagine that you're talking to your mom or brother or sister. Try to recreate that feeling of comfort 

inside that you feel at home. There are many suggestions on our web site about making friends and having conversations. But, note the following as well:

1. Sometimes in a school setting, it is very difficult to really get to know other kids, especially if you tend to be shy. However, it is pretty easy to tell if a person is someone you're likely to get along with. Does your school have a phone directory? If it does, look up that classmate's name in the directory and invite her over for some activity after school. (It can be to do homework, Nintendo, softball, - any number of things the two of you might be interested in.) Do plan something to do. There's nothing that turns an afternoon more sour than two kids asking each other what they want to do and giving each other shrugs for answers.

2. What about making after school plans with those friends you have made in your new town? How about calling them at home and asking them to join you for a movie or to go shopping on the weekend? 3. Stay involved. This is the time in your life to really explore who you are.  Talk to your family and ask them to help you find after school activities in your town that you might like. There is nothing quite as special as finding a friend who shares the same passion about a sport, music, dance, theater, you do.

4. Is there a guidance counselor in your school? If there is, you might suggest to him or her that they begin a program for helping new kids in the community get adjusted to the new neighborhood and school. You might want to volunteer to head up this program with an adult. Since you have been through the difficulties of moving and starting anew, you would certainly be the perfect candidate to help kids who are really new to the school adjust more easily. This would also give you a great opportunity to meet new friends. Since these kids will be far more nervous than you, you might gain some confidence by trying to put them at ease. (Note: You can send the guidance counselor a note, detailing your thoughts on this if speaking up at first is too hard.)

5. Do take heart about the future. Remember that the teenage years are indeed tough for many kids, shy and non-shy. You might ask some adults around you what they thought of their teenage years. The memories are often bittersweet. For almost everyone, it is a wonderful period of growth, but also a period of some sadness and pain. It is hard to imagine now, but your shyness will diminish as you get older. You will find friendships in school if you take small steps to achieve this. Your confidence will grow as you get older and you may  look back in a few years and find it hard to believe that you were ever shy.

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