Raising an Introvert Child: An In-Depth Guide
Parenting always comes with its challenges. Raising an introverted child can come with even more challenges, especially if you're an extrovert yourself.
This in-depth guide will give you some tips on staying motivated and keeping your introverted child engaged in activities that they enjoy.
We'll go over how to identify your child's strengths and weaknesses, as well as what the best ways of encouraging their development might be.
Parents of introverted children often don't know what to do with their children or parent them. This guide is a great place to start for parents who are looking at raising an introverted child.
What is introversion?
Introverts are people who find that they have to expend energy to be social. This means introverted children may not always enjoy going out with friends, and will need downtime after periods of socializing.
They often prefer listening rather than talking, reading books over interacting with others, or being alone instead of playing outside.
There's also a neurological difference in the brain wirings of somebody who's an extrovert and an introvert.
It has to do with the way our brains react to dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that our brain releases when we have fun.
Extroverts, who are more active and enjoy being around other people, release dopamine in the same way as they do with any rewarding activity--giving them their high energy.
Introverted children on the other hand don't produce the same amounts of dopamine to get the same kind of satisfaction out of socializing.
This is why introverts need to spend time alone for their brain to come up with its own kind of dopamine, which they can then release when they're more social on their own terms.
As a result, introverts can find it difficult to deal with too many stimuli, while extroverts thrive on social interactions and easily become overwhelmed by periods of solitude.
I've also written an in-depth guide on what introversion is, which you can read here.
Can an introvert do the same things as an extrovert?
Of course! Even though introverts are different, they can still do the same things as extroverts to be healthy and happy people.
Introverted children need time for themselves to access their own dopamine release--this doesn't mean that they spend every waking hour by themselves! They just want a little break from interaction with other people.
Introverted children need to be told that it's okay for them to spend time by themselves and that they don't have to always do what their friends are doing. This will help introverts feel more accepted, which will make extroversion easier for them in the long run.
Then there are some things introverts don't enjoy doing--like public speaking or being the center of attention--but it's important to realize that they still can do these things.
They just need a little push and encouragement from their parents to succeed at them.
This doesn't mean introverted children should go out of their way to speak in front of people--it just means that they need encouragement and support from their parents.
In the end, introverted children can still be happy people if they have a little break for themselves, some time to focus on what makes them feel good (such as reading or being alone), and an understanding parent who helps provide this balance for their child.
2. Challenges of raising an introverted child
Some common challenges of raising an introverted child are:
Worrying that your introverted child is being bullied in school or not making friends
Some parents of introverted children worry that their child is being bullied at school or not making friends.
This can be a challenge because the parent might feel like they are unable to help, or be of any use without harming their child's confidence and self-image.
One way to deal with this is for the child to have a buddy at school. The parent can either find someone in their neighborhood or if that's not an option they might want to consider going through channels of the school and asking them what other introverted children there are who need buddies as well.
The benefit of having a buddy can be that the introverted child will not only have someone to talk to but also feel more confident and less alone.
The parent might want to approach this as a service project for their child, to promote an understanding of empathy through giving back.
It's also important for parents of introverted children to make sure they don't over-step boundaries and let their children be independent when it comes to making friends.
Knowing how to get them out of their shell and socialize with other kids without forcing it on them all the time
Some parents might find themselves struggling to know how to get their introverted child out of their shell and socializing with other children without forcing it on them all the time.
One way for a parent to deal with this is by giving their child context about what's happening at school or in another playdate, so they'll feel more comfortable interacting.
An introverted child doesn’t need to go up and start chatting with a bunch of kids, but rather the parent can ask them if they want to give it a try. This way their boundaries are still respected and there will be less anxiety about being put on the spot or bullied again.
Another thing a parent might want to do is think about what their introverted child likes.
One way of doing this is by asking them where they like to play and which activities are fun for them so that the parents can find common ground with other kids who have similar interests.
This will make it easier for introverted children to make friends, and it will also be easier for them to feel more comfortable with other kids.
A parent can also think about setting up a playdate or inviting the other child over to their house. This way they are giving their introverted child space but still making sure there's an interaction between at least two people to help the introverted child grow.
Not understanding why they need so much alone time
This can be a tricky one, especially if you're an extrovert yourself and have nearly always been surrounded by extroverts who share the same needs for social interactions.
However, for introverts in general, it's the opposite. They don't need to be as social to feel fulfilled, and it's usually the opposite where they'll find themselves feeling drained by too much interaction.
This is another situation that can happen for introverts who are still very young and have not yet begun going outside of their comfort zone enough.
They might become overwhelmed with meeting new people or going to new places, and need a lot of alone time to recover.
If this is the case for an introverted child then their parents must respect this boundary they have set up for themselves by giving them space when needed.
It also might be helpful if you can find things your child likes doing on their own so you know what they enjoy, and then try to find other introverted kids as friends who like the same things.
It's never too late for an introvert to make new friends or start going outside their comfort zone more often, but it might be a good idea if you don't push them into doing this too much.
3. Identifying your child's strengths and weaknesses
How can you identify your child's strengths?
This is going to depend on the age of your child, but there are a few things you can do.
For young children:
- What kinds of tasks does he take care of well? Cooking breakfast for himself before school or taking care of his little sister during an afternoon nap. These might be signs that this type of work comes naturally to your child.
- What are some of his hobbies? If he enjoys playing chess, for example, this might be an indication that they're a thinker and prefer mental challenges over physical ones.
For older children:
- What have been her favorite activities throughout school so far? If she's always loved composing music or working on science experiments, there's a good chance that these things are what she loves and excels at.
- Is your child doing the same type of work they've always done? For example, if you have an introverted child who has often enjoyed solitary activities like reading or playing video games and now is working in customer service where he needs to interact with customers all day, he might not be happy.
- What do you know they're good at? If this has been something that's come naturally to her or if there are many occasions where she was able to perform well in the areas of school work, extracurricular activities like sports teams and music groups, etc., then these are all signs that she's probably good at it and enjoys doing it.
- What are the passions of your child? If they enjoy singing, have done well in drama courses, or play musical instruments often, this might be an indication that these things come naturally to them and should be pursued further.
How can you identify your child's weaknesses?
We all have weaknesses. And the only way we can deal with them, and potentially get better at them, is by knowing what they are.
Parents play a vital role in this.
Not only does identifying someone's weaknesses provide the potential of them getting better at them, but it also instills self-awareness in the individual.
The earlier you can instill self-awareness in your child, regardless of if they're introverted or not, the better.
Some ways that can help to identify your child's weaknesses are:
- What are they bad at? If you know your child is struggling in a particular subject, then that could be an indication of a weakness.
- Does your child have trouble expressing themselves as clearly and concisely when trying to communicate their thoughts or feelings with others? This might indicate that there's room for improvement in this area.
- Do they get stressed easily? If so, this might be because of a particular weakness that needs to be identified and addressed.
You can also do some exercises with your child where you list as many areas of interest or hobbies from the previous section like:
- What are her favorite activities throughout school so far?
- What are the passions of your child?
Then ask them, 'What are you fairly good at?' and 'What are you not so good at?' Then go through these lists with your child to see what they might want more help on or be interested in improving.
4. Encouraging development with the right activities
The most important thing to remember is that introverted children may not have a lot of energy for extrovert-friendly activities like being on stage or in large groups.
That doesn't mean they don't enjoy those types of things, but it might be better to find ways for them to participate in those activities with a smaller group.
Try asking them to play an instrument for the audience, or have them volunteer to read their favorite storybook at night before bedtime.
An introverted child is different from other children and may need your help more than others when they're young.
They might enjoy quieter times like reading books alone while you read aloud to them, or playing games by themselves.
It's important as a parent not only that you take the time to understand these children but also make sure they're getting what they need for their development and happiness.
Keep in mind, the purpose of this isn't to make your child more extroverted or like more extroverted activities per se. They're an introvert, and they'll always be introverts (remember the neurological differences?)
What's more important is to let them know that we understand who they are and what makes them happy. The goal of this guide isn't to make your child a different type of person, but rather the best version of themselves.
5. Ways to stay motivated as a parent of an introverted child
Even if your introverted child is not interested in something at first, keep trying. It may be that they just need time to warm up to the experience and slowly become more comfortable with it.
Many children who are on the quieter side have a harder time being around large groups of people and will often avoid these situations if they can.
This is why parents need to be proactive and make sure that their introverted child gets opportunities to spend time with other children in a way that feels natural, such as a playdate or taking them on an outing of some sort (to the library, museum, zoo).
Embrace their strengths
introverted children are often very observant and imaginative, which means they spend a lot of time taking in the world around them. Instead of discouraging this behavior, parents should take advantage of their child's gifts by encouraging him or her to tell stories about what he or she has done on adventures that day (or just at home).
Remember your child's needs
It can feel tiring to constantly be the one who initiates things. If introverts find themselves in a situation where they have no choice but to interact with others, try giving them time after each interaction to reenergize and recharge.
For example, if you're at a birthday party for an introverted child, make sure he or she gets a chance to take a break and do something solitary like reading or drawing.
Never compare your children
Some parents may find themselves comparing their introverted child to his or her extroverted sibling who always seems so happy in social settings.
Remember that it is okay for each of your children to be an individual with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, so don't ever try to force your introverted child into situations that he or she doesn't enjoy.
This is why it's important for parenting a young introvert to find ways of encouraging them without forcing them - such as taking their feelings about being around other people seriously, and not minimizing them.
6. How to help their children thrive in social situations
Most introverts are not shy, and they don't want to be treated like they're fragile.
They just need time to get used to people before engaging with them; it may take anywhere from a few minutes up to an hour for some children. Give your child the time she needs, without pushing her too much - pushy parenting is bad parenting.
If you're hosting a party, provide your child with time to decompress before the guests arrive or have her do an activity that she enjoys on her own while people are arriving - this will help them feel more at ease when it's time for mingling and chatting.
Teach children how to use body language to communicate. For example, if they want more space from someone who is crowding them or making them uncomfortable, teach your child how to put a hand up and say "I need some space."
If you're having guests over for dinner and your introverted child is new in the group of friends, have the other children serve as hosts - this will help your child to feel more comfortable.
When your child is in a social situation, teach them how to use their "listening face" - this means that they have an engaged but relaxed look on their face so people know when they're listening.
Introverted children need time for themselves and alone time with family members; don't pressure them into going out all the time.
Don't teach introverted children that they need to be an extrovert to have friends. It's not worth the conflict, and it could cause them distress for years to come.
Some more tips:
- Create a plan for your child to gradually increase their social interaction
- Be prepared for the worst case scenario - don't be caught off guard when your introverted child has a meltdown and is unable to handle the situation
- Teach your children how to deal with bullies by modeling these behaviors yourself
- Make sure that you're not over-stimulating them before they have to go into a social setting
- Give them time alone after an event to calm down and process what happened so that they can feel better about it later on
- Let them know that it's okay if they need space from others sometimes, but encourage them to try new things every now and then as well
In this in-depth guide, we've talked about what you need to know about raising an introverted child.
We've covered the basics of what it means to be introverted, how parents can encourage their children in social situations without forcing them, and tips on dealing with bullying.
Hopefully, this guide will help you be a better parent for your introverted little one!
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - bestselling book by Susan Cain