Ep. 171: Is it Shyness or Social Anxiety? with Dr. Fran Walfish

Feb 5, 2024 | 0 comments

Would you describe your child as passive, quiet around others, uncomfortable in social situations, a child that avoids eye contact, and maybe hesitates to try new things? Does your child excessively rehearse what they want to say or how they want to behave? Some parents may wonder if this is shyness or something more. Is it social anxiety?

Today, we’re digging into the topic of both. Is it shyness or social anxiety and how do you know? And what can we do to help?

Dr. Fran Walfish is an absolute expert in this field and in our conversation today, she not only offers some clarification on the differences between shyness and social anxiety, but also shares things we can do to support these children better and when to seek professional help and guidance. She is a wealth of knowledge and I am thrilled for you to hear our conversation.


Show Notes:

[3:21] – First, shyness is an innate trait. It’s something human beings are born with. A child comes into the world already predisposed with a particular temperament.

[4:42] – Shyness can sometimes look like anxiety. There are so many ingredients that shape a person’s personality and behavior.

[6:36] – The child should be the one to dictate the comfort level, rather than it being driven by the parent's fear of embarrassment or shame due to the child's shyness.

[8:31] – Certain things can lead to social anxiety. 

[10:20] – Not all shy people have social anxiety.

[12:11] – Well-meaning parents may feel embarrassed or exceedingly worried about a child’s shyness.

[14:37] – Selective mutism is a confusing presentation of social anxiety.

[16:58] – It is crucial for parents not to pressure kids. It could lead to them withholding even more.

[19:12] – The parent who is trying to discern the difference between social anxiety and shyness needs to be non-judgmental.

[21:35] – Create some reasonable separation and assure your child that you are there.

[23:01] – Just like adults, children want to be seen, acknowledged, validated and accepted – flaws and all.

[24:40] – What can parents and teachers do to help children with social anxiety? Dr. Walfish shares some tips.

[26:25] – Expect some successes and failures.

[31:21] – If parents see their child crying and sobbing in most social situations, it is time to search for a referral.


About Our Guest:

Dr. Fran Walfish is a leading child, couples, family, relationship, and sex psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, CA who treats celebrity couples, Hollywood’s elite, and LA’s poshest residents. In addition to her thriving private practice, Dr. Walfish was on clinical staff in the Department of Child Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for 15 years. She was a Beverly Hills school psychologist and served a 4 year-term as Chair of the Board of The Early Childhood Parenting Center founded at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles. Dr. Fran was the host and co-star on WE tv series, Sex Box. Dr. Walfish also appeared as an on-camera expert psychotherapist in 15 episodes on The Robert Irvine Show, CW/Tribune Networks. Dr. Walfish is a featured expert in Parents magazine “Ask The Experts”, and formerly in her weekly Q & A in The Beverly Hills Courier. She is an expert contributor to several news outlets and publications.  

Dr. Fran’s book, The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building A Better Bond with Your Child, is represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and published by Palgrave Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press. Simon & Schuster published her original chapter Why Empathy Matters in their all-star psychologists anthology book Tough Love in 2018.  Dr. Walfish has been quoted in NY Bestselling books authored by Arianna Huffington, Randi Zuckerberg, and Josh Shipp.


Connect with Dr. Fran Walfish:

Links and Related Resources:

Connect with Us:


The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.