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shy 4 year old son

I would consider my son bright and outgoing when either in adult company or (I have checked) in class at pre-school. However when faced with the prospect of a kids party (even with class mates), or meeting groups of new kids, or generally a new social occasion, he appears absolutely terrfified by the prospect and will cling to my leg for dear life and not speak to anyone. I really cannot understand and am not sure if I should be harder or softer with him? I have talked to him about it, but am worried this may be highlighting the issues. Any advise out there?