A University of Manitoba professor has developed a web tool to teach parents strategies to help their kids who are overly shy, anxious or fearful. 

"Many kids who struggle with shyness or anxiety when they're young have that problem as teenagers and adults," said John Walker, a professor in the department of clinical health psychology. 

"When you work with your child early on, you already overcome some obstacles."

Walker and his colleagues made the Coaching for Confidence web program because their kids struggled with anxiety and they had to find strategies to help. Now they want to help other parents.

"There's many parents that are a long way from help and the resources are quite limited for helping parents with this problem," he said.

John Walker

John Walker, a University of Manitoba professor, worked on a web portal to help parents help their anxious kids. (CBC)

Interested parents will be interviewed to make sure they're a good fit, then they're given a password and username to log on to the online program. Parents have access to more than a dozen 20-minute lessons on understanding anxiety and strategies to deal with kids. The lessons deal with different challenges kids might be facing, such as going to bed or making friends. 

"It's really important when you tackle these problems to go a step at a time, not to rush it too much," Walker said.

"The thing that has the most impact actually with kids is repeated practice, so if a child is afraid to go to the swimming pool, if you go there and relax, sometimes just watch the other kids swimming, practice week after week, kids will get almost anything." 

Anxiety looks different in different people, he said. In children it can come out as shyness, fear of new situations, worry or all three. For example, some kids don't want to learn how to ride a bike, he said. 

"They're just anxious about it and when you work at it, many times the kids end up loving the thing that they were reluctant about at first," he said.

Interested parents can call 204-237-2055 or email coachingforconfidence@umanitoba.ca.