Is Your Child an Introvert?
- Does your child have a small circle of friends?
- Does your child tend to hang back and watch activities before joining in?
- Does your child spend a lot of time alone?
- Is your child easily embarrassed?
- Does your child tend to overthink things?
- Does your child get crabby or tired after spending a lot of time around others?
Chances are, you have an introverted child.
Some kids are just more reserved. And that’s okay!
7 Ways to Help Introverts Navigate Societal Norms
As much as I dislike labeling kids, it is important for parents to understand if your child is more introverted. Introverted kids get energized from spending time alone, while extroverted kids thrive on being around others.
So if you’re an introvert, and you love spending time alone, how do you make friends? Even though they enjoy alone time, everyone needs friends, and introverts covet close relationships with a small group of people.
Here are some practical strategies that may help your child come out of his or her shell. While I am certainly not suggesting that you try and change your child’s personality, it is essential for all kids to be able to build relationships with others.
1. The F Word
Don’t worry, I am not talking about THAT one! I am referring to FRIENDSHIPS.
Making friends can be incredibly difficult for introverted kids. Sometimes quiet kids do well with other quiet kids. Other times quiet kids do well with outgoing kids. My daughter Zoe is quite outgoing and one of her best friends is much more reserved. Their friendship works beautifully: Zoe helps Tessa come out of her shell a bit and Tessa helps tone Zoe down and keep her focused on one activity at a time. It’s important for your child to interact with lots of different kids to find those good connections.
When you are trying to help your child build friendships, it’s a good idea to start small. This might mean that you schedule a one hour playdate at your house. You could even suggest that you meet at a park. Jumping right in with a big birthday party or a sleepover is a recipe for disaster.
2. Kids Take Your Lead
This is a big one. If you are anxious, your kids pick up on that. For parents who are more introverted, this means that you might have to step outside of your own comfort zone a bit. This might mean that you have to force yourself to make awkward small talk with other parents at the class party. This might mean that you have to fake a smile and say that the first day of kindergarten is going to be amazing, even if your stomach has butterflies and you can’t stop thinking about all of the worst case scenario situations that could occur! Parents can do a lot to help set the stage for success.
On the flip side, if you are a really outgoing person, it is likely very difficult for you to understand your child’s shyness. Try and find some middle ground. Don’t expect your child to suddenly become a boisterous fun-loving mini version of you. Baby steps!
3. Prepare and Practice
Many introverted kids are more anxious, and anxious people tend to not like surprises. A great way for you to help your introverted child is to mentally prepare them for different social situations. Obviously we can’t predict everything that is going to happen, but helping your child think through scenarios ahead of time can lessen their discomfort.
For example, before you go to the park you could talk to your child about what types of things there are to do there and practice asking other kids to play.
4. Push… But be Gentle
It’s easy to let your introverted kid stay home playing quietly in his or her bedroom all the time. Many introverted kids are great at keeping themselves entertained for hours. And while it is important to respect their need for alone time, it’s equally important to encourage them to do other things outside of their comfort zone.
How do you make that happen? As a parent, I am a big fan of forced choices. This is that dirty little parenting trick where you give your child 2 choices that you like, but then they kind of feel like they are calling the shots. For example, you could ask your child at the beginning of the week, “Would you like to have Jennifer come over here on Saturday or would you rather we all go to the park together?”
5. Find Their Areas of Interest
This ties in nicely with my previous suggestion. It’s important for ALL kids to try a variety of activities in order to find their “thing.” This could be sports, art, music, robotics, cooking, theater… there are so many great options out there! When kids are doing something they love, it’s a great opportunity for them to build friendships with others with similar interests. Your local community education department or library likely have many great options available.
6. Respect and Accept Your Child’s Personality
Try and avoid talking about their introversion in front of him or her. (“Oh, she probably won’t say hi to you, she is really shy.”) This can quickly become a crutch and kids can get stuck in some bad habits.
It is important, however, to have conversations with your child about his or her discomfort with different situations so you can help problem solve.
You could say something like, “I noticed that sometimes it’s hard for you to greet people, but that’s a really important thing to be able to do. Let’s practice it at home so it doesn’t feel so weird next time.”
7. Acknowledge Those Baby Steps!
Let’s be honest- everyone likes to hear that they are doing a good job. While it may seem a bit silly, it’s important to point out the progress your child makes with becoming more social. This can just be verbal praise (“I noticed that you smiled and said hello to a couple different kids at the park today- great job!”) or you could even set up a simple sticker chart and let your child earn a little prize for his or her efforts.
Hopefully some of these quick tips will help your introverted child start to share some of their wonderful qualities with others! And remember, being introverted is not a bad thing!