Every child is born with their own unique personalities, and as parents, we have the best job of watching them grow, develop, and, well, say some of the weirdest and funniest things imaginable. But different personalities require different types of nurturing, and if you have an introvert on your hands, navigating that path can be a bit more complicated. In a world where extroverts outnumber introverts almost three to one, it can be a challenge to parent a child who doesn't thrive on social interaction and engagement.
We often mistake shyness with truly being an introvert and think it's our job as parents to "fix" that shyness, but the two are not the same. While the shy child may need help coming out of their shell, the true introvert won't thrive on being drawn out and will instead struggle more with the added pressure and socialization. Introverts recharge by being alone, unlike their extroverted peers, who gain energy from being around others. Shy children and introverts both might avoid social situations, but the introvert does so by choice, while the shy child makes the decision out of fear.
Wondering if your child is an introvert? First of all, don't be alarmed. The trait comes with some awesome strengths. However, it also requires some specific parenting strategies. Here are seven things to look for if you're trying to determine if your child is an introvert.
- They avoid eye contact and interacting with others, especially new people. Because meeting new people can be draining to an introvert, they might avoid engaging at all. Know that the behaviour doesn't come from a place of rudeness, but instead your introverted child is just trying to protect themselves from the intimidation and embarrassment they often feel when meeting strangers or interacting with people they don't know well.
- They throw tantrums or are generally upset after a busy day. A day spent running errands, at a party, or at school can feel extremely draining to an introverted child, and they might act out because of it. If you know you're going to have an extended period of time that involves a lot of social interaction, be sure to schedule some quiet, alone time for your child before and afterward.
- You find them talking to themselves or favourite toys more than other children. Introverts tend to be quieter than their extroverted peers, preferring to process the world internally. Don't be surprised if you often find your child having a conversation with themselves or a favourite stuffed animal. Having private time to unpack their feelings and experiences is necessary for them.
- They prefer playing alone than with other children. Enjoying solo play is a hallmark of the introverted child, who would rather use their imagination and play alone than interact with other children, especially in large groups or when those children aren't well-known to them.
- They stick to a few trusted friends. Introverts need friends, too; they just prefer to stick to a few close confidants rather than collecting a gaggle of buddies. Helping them form deep bonds with those friends they do trust and enjoy spending time with is important as a parent.
- They're reluctant to try new things. Because new experiences usually involve interacting with new people and places, introverted children may not be keen on saying yes to any new undertaking, instead preferring to stick to situations they know and feel more comfortable with.
- They have trouble expressing their emotions. Introverts are hardwired to process their emotions internally, so talking about them with anyone else — even a parent — can be difficult. Don't push the matter, but instead give your child time to think, process, and come to you when they're ready, while still letting them know that you're always there to provide any love and support they need.