Do you watch your child on the playground and wonder why they act so much differently than you did at their age?
You looked for people to play with and made friends easily. Your child plays by themselves and doesn’t approach kids they don’t already know.
Introverts prefer one-on-one interactions instead of loud, boisterous groups.
You were full of energy and loved being a part of the crowd. Your child who is talkative at home is cautious, stands back and watches when they enter a group.
“It can be confusing when you’re an extrovert and your child is an introvert,” said Amy Kryder, M.D., of Carilion Clinic Pediatric Medicine. “You might try to push them to act differently or participate more—but being an introvert is part of your child’s natural personality.”
Being an introvert isn’t a negative thing and it isn’t something to worry about. It doesn’t mean your child doesn’t like people and it doesn’t mean they’re doomed to be lonely or friendless. What it does mean is they prefer environments that are less stimulating and more calm. They prefer one-on-one interactions instead of loud, boisterous groups.
“The best thing you can do for your introverted child is not try to change them, but instead learn how they see the world and accept who they are; you can help them adapt to different situations,” said Dr. Kryder. “That will help you relate to them and celebrate what is special about them.”
Here are some things to know about introverts:
The World Can Feel Intrusive to Them
Lots of noise or activity can easily make an introvert feel uneasy, anxious, scared or just overwhelmed and tired. When taking your introvert child somewhere new, give them the chance to observe until they’re comfortable, and give them the chance to leave the environment in favor of somewhere calmer if they need to.
They’re Thinking and Processing
One of the main differences in introverts and extroverts is that introverts are more involved with their own thoughts and feelings than with the outside world. Your introvert child may prefer to think about something before talking about it, watch a situation before joining it or read or draw instead of socialize.
Encourage them to participate, but allow them to do it at their own pace, and give them a chance to recharge their batteries by being alone afterwards.
Socializing Can Be Exhausting for Them
If you’re an extrovert, being at a party full of people makes you feel energized and full of life. Exactly the opposite is true of your introverted child—being social or being in loud areas can literally drain them of energy after a while. Try to be mindful that they may need a break.
The best thing you can do for your introverted child is ... learn how they see the world and accept who they are.
Quiet Time Is Important
Having time to quietly recharge—often alone—helps your introverted child feel more energetic and positive.
They may also gravitate toward hobbies and extracurricular activities that allow them to be quiet or have solo participation. They may not want to be part of the soccer team, but they may excel on the chess team or in art classes. They may choose running or tennis instead of team sports.
They Often Feel Different
Our society tends to praise having lots of friends and being social. Other children may misunderstand your introvert child’s personality as aloof, stand-offish or “stuck up.”
Your child may have only a couple of close friends, and they might want to stay home and read a new book rather than go to the playground.
Do your best not to label them as "shy" or unpopular or antisocial—those are all negative words that will do nothing more than hurt their self-esteem.
“Every child has their own unique personality,” said Dr. Kryder. "Embracing who they are will make you happier, make them happier and help your relationship."
Remember to keep things positive with your little introvert, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zones and then reinforcing that the outcomes are often good, fun or constructive.
But always let them be who they are.