Blushing furiously, my daughter's friend raised her hand. When the teacher called her name, her soft-spoken reply was barely audible. As she realized her answer was in correct, my daughter's friend's eyes filled with tears. For shy kids, simple social interaction, like answering a teacher's question, is torture.

As I researched this article, memory of my adolescent shyness rushed back. I remembered clammy and hands and racing heart. I remembered my preoccupation with what others thought of me.

At eleven, my family moved to a small town. Thrust into a new junior high school, I was the new kid. Everyone else had friends. They didn't need me, I figured.

After a few tortuous days, a quiet girl from math smiled at me. I smiled back, and our friendship blossomed.

Although I was thrilled to have a new friend, I still sat alone at lunch and on the bus. Since I didn't know anyone, I didn't say anything. Since I didn't say anything, no one noticed me.

Why are some kids shy? Like me, shyness can be triggered by an event. However, there is evidence that shyness may be physiological.

In an American Psychological Association article, "Timidity Can Develop In The First Days Of Life," Beth Azar writes, "Fox and Kagan posit that differences in brain chemistry may affect how easily excited these areas become when a child encounters new things like a loud noise or new toy… These circuits activate more easily in high-reactive kids and when activated, the kids feel uncertainty and distress, fear and anxiety, said Fox."

Unfortunately, whether or not shyness is physiological, its effects can create a lose-lose situation. As shy kids shrink from interaction, despite their longing to belong, they are simply overlooked by their more outgoing peers. Despite the shy person's fear that he or she is being rejected, the reality is they are more frequently, simply overlooked.

Although shyness can throw up a social barrier, it's possible to knock it down. It comes down to the old adage, people generally treat you how you treat them.

As its written at shykids.com, "The most attractive people have eyes that say, 'talk to me,' not turn away. … The quickest way to make a friend is to smile."

Somewhere along the way I realized my peers hadn't rejected me. They just didn't know me. I made myself smile, to say hi. My stomach fluttered, but I talked to kids sitting near me in class. My hands were clammy the first few days of after-school chorus, but I stuck with it and made friends. I began to baby-sit. I went to summer camp. One social success led to another and before long I felt as comfortable in my new school as I had in my old - well, almost, anyway.

Research shows that setting goals with your daughter, encouraging her, but not protecting her, is the way to break through her shyness. Let your daughter know it's okay to feel shy, as miserable as that is, but it's not okay to give up on people. It's okay to move slowly, but move she must.

Reassure you daughter she needn't become a social butterfly. Making a friend or participating in class is enough. The goal is to extend her comfort zone so she can enjoy social situations.

Here are 8 suggestions that may help your daughter break through her wall of shyness.

1. Help her make a goal of smiling or saying hello to one person each day.

2. Encourage her to raise her hand in class, at least once each day.

3. Help her think about what she likes. Encourage her to join a club or apply for a job.

4. Teach her to put the shoe on the other foot. Does someone need a pen? Say, "Here, I have an extra one." Is someone sitting alone? Ask, "Can I join you?"

5. Encourage your daughter to write in a journal. Releasing her fear will defuse it.

6. Encourage a younger child to invite a friend over. Plan projects for the two to do together if they need help.

7. Encourage your daughter to interact with a younger child. Become a mother's helper. Baby-sit. Interacting with younger children helps many children overcome their shyness.

8. Finally, log her onto http://www.shykids.com - there she'll find specific suggestions on how to make friends
and become a comfortable conversationalist.

Acknowledging your daughter's shyness and helping her take steps to overcome it will not only strengthen your relationship, it'll make your daughter healthier and happier. Take it from me; I've been there.

Author's Bio: 

Dede Perkins writes on a number of subjects for a number of industries. She also runs a copywriting business, http://www.afewgoodwords.com and helps her clients increase sales by clarifying and communicating their marketing messages.