Young and Quiet: Understanding Your Introverted Child
When you have a quiet son or daughter, you might wonder if there may be something wrong with them. They keep to themselves, never really interact with their peers, and their teachers tell you they keep to themselves in class. While it might be concerning, more than likely your child is just behaving like a classic introvert.
Introverts make up between 25% and 40% of the population. An introverted personality is often marked by a shy, quiet personality. However, introverts aren’t always shy. Sometimes, introverts simply prefer to be to themselves and with their own thoughts. Just like all people, every introvert is different even though they might share common traits.
But for an extroverted parent, having an introverted child can be a challenge. It might be difficult for you to understand why they simply aren’t more outgoing than you, why they rather watch people do things than participate in activities themselves, and why they’re talking your ear off one moment and quiet the next. Introverts can be incredibly complex people, but raising an introvert doesn’t have to be difficult.
Tips to Understand Your Introverted Child
There are millions of introverts in the world and many of them have gone on to be successful members of society such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, J.K Rowling, and Mother Teresa to name a few. Many actors and performers are also introverts even if one might consider a public profession like those to be better suited for an extrovert.
Try as you might, your son or daughter will always be introverted. While they may become better at handling social situations and having less anxiety when meeting new people, they’ll likely grow up to be functioning introverts.
Don’t try to force your introverted child to become an extrovert. Let them experience situations as they happen and offer positive encouragement for them to try something new.
Unlike their extroverted counterparts, introverts much prefer silence and solitude. An introvert will often enjoy staying home and reading, playing video games, or enjoying a hobby they can do on their own.
But, just because they prefer being alone in their free time does not mean that all introverts avoid people like the plague. In fact, introverts often have close friends whom they’re comfortable with or have known for a long time. Most introverts are not averse to social interaction. They just simply prefer to spend time on their own with their own thoughts.
Having friends and a social circle for an introvert can be mentally and emotionally draining. Extroverts tend to gain energy when they’re around a group of people, while extroverts are the complete opposite. Being social requires them to use up mental energy to keep up with all of the interactions around them. It’s for this reason that introverts will likely keep small groups of close friends, will avoid large parties, and will often be the first to leave simply because they can’t take anymore social interactions.
But it doesn’t mean that introverts will likely avoid all forms of social interactions or will hate going to a big party. It simply means they will likely be mentally drained afterwards and will likely become reclusive for a period of time while they decompress and compute everything that has happened.
However, it’s never a good idea to force an introvert into a major social engagement. They simply cannot cope with dealing with so many people at a time and will likely become defensive and reclusive. Instead, encourage your child to take part in smaller groups or work one on one with a partner so they get used to socializing.
Because of their lack of social interaction, younger introverts may find it incredibly difficult to form friendships. The thought of making a new friend or talking to strangers can be an anxiety inducing dilemma that causes them to avoid it altogether. When your introverted child does make a friend or you see them interacting more, make sure to give them praise because for them, it's a massive step in dealing with something that makes them uncomfortable.
Don’t be surprised if your introverted child doesn’t talk to you about their problems. Introverts often don’t know how to handle confrontation or deal with problems effectively. Make sure to ask questions when you sense something might be wrong with your child, but never turn the conversation into an interrogation.
For an introvert, a new experience can be frightening and a bit nerve wracking, which is perfectly normal for them. Your introvert will likely spend a lot of time watching an activity before they actually warm up to trying it themselves. Let them spend time near you where they know it’s safe until they’re comfortable enough to try out whatever new activity you’ve shown them.
It might also be beneficial to explain to your young introvert what will happen at social events or gatherings and what kinds of things they can expect. This will help them be prepared for when they’re finally in the environment.
When the gentle nudge in the direction of a social gathering finally works with your introvert and they enjoy themselves, offer them praise for doing something they thought they might not enjoy. Saying something like, “Great job! I hope you met some nice people.” Introverts tend to think long and hard before deciding if a certain situation is right for them. They risk using up most of their mental energy putting themselves out there whereas most people wouldn’t think twice and that’s why it’s a massive step when they decide to do something they normally wouldn’t attempt.
But don’t be surprised if after they try something new if they take a few mental holidays by being alone. Once again, it’s all about absorbing little bits and then processing things privately.
No matter if it’s video games, athletics, chess team, academics, or practically any other hobby, if your introvert enjoys it, they’ll do it to the best of their ability. For an introvert, consider an intense interest or hobby like a safety blanket. It’s something familiar they love and can always turn when they need to feel comfortable.
While sports might not be for every introvert, engaining in the Scouts might be something they find enjoyable. The bonus aspect of these types of interests is that they give your son or daughter the chance to build friendships and have social interactions. Once the people involved in those interests become familiar to them, talking and making friends becomes much easier.
Talk to Your Child’s Teacher about their Introversion
Just because your child is quiet, doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention in class. Oftentimes, introverts are incredibly intelligent because they spend more time listening than talking. They may be uncomfortable being part of classroom discussions and definitely wouldn’t want to be called up in front of the class to give a speech, but introverts often make great students.
Make sure to speak to your child’s teacher often to see how they’re doing and if there are areas where they might need help. Because introverts internalize their problems and won’t usually ask for help, teachers and parents might not know they’re struggling. Keeping an open dialog with your child and with their teacher can help solve these types of issues before the situation becomes more stressful than it needs to be.
Learning More About Introversion
Extroverted parents might find the habits of an introverted child considerably different from their own. The best way to learn more about your child’s introversion is to read more about what introverts are like in general. You’ll quickly discover that quiet doesn’t necessarily mean shy and introversion doesn’t always mean anti-social.
Here are a couple of well known books on introversion that might help you make a better connection with your child or teen: