The next time your teen refuses to say hello to a classmate who you run into outside of school, think twice before accusing your child of being impolite. You may just want to let it go. Your teen may simply be shy rather than surly, antisocial, or stubborn.
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that nearly half of more than 10,000 teenagers surveyed identified themselves as shy around peers that they don't know well. Dr. Kathleen Merikangas, the lead researcher of the National Institute of Mental Health study, describes shyness as a normal, human temperamental style. So, your teen may come by this naturally, just as other teens have an easier and more outgoing temperamental style. And, shyness is not necessarily a bad thing. These kids tend to find their niche.
An extremely shy teen, on the other hand, should be watched more closely as one in ten teens who described themselves as shy may meet criteria for social anxiety or social phobia. If your teen is avoiding peers at all costs then you may want to have him/her evaluated. In most cases, though, rest assured that your shy teen will most likely find his/her place in the world. As a formerly shy teen myself I can tell you that some of my teachers were more concerned about me than I was about myself. I never quite understood what they were worried about because I was pretty happy with my small group of good friends.
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