Introverts generally enjoy social activities in small doses and in a controlled manner. As they mature and understand how they are wired, they learn to proactively plan their social life in a way that makes the most sense for them. This is just as necessary for introverted children even though parents might not think about it from their child’s perspective. Because most children haven’t developed enough self-awareness to know how to tackle this part of their life, they can’t always express why they suddenly don’t want to go somewhere such as the party they have been looking forward to all week. The truth is mom and dad need to help an introverted child and guide them in understanding their introversion and how to deal with it regarding social situations.
So let’s look at some practical ways to encourage an introverted child to navigate and enjoy social activities on their own terms.
The First Step to Help an Introverted Child
Before you can help an introverted child enjoy social activities, you need to understand the one you have. Not all introverted children are the same. There is a range of introversion that can greatly impact how much social activity a child enjoys.
It’s important to remember what introversion is at its core. Extroverts gain energy from people. Introverts are drained by being with people. Introverts need time alone to regain their energy. So underlying all of this is the understanding that introverts need time alone to re-energize and feel like rejoining the rest of the world.
One mistake people make is thinking introverts are automatically shy. That isn’t necessarily the case. Many introverts can be quite outgoing and genuinely enjoy being with people. Some are even excellent public speakers. Your child may love being with her friends but, at the end of the time, she very much needs time alone with her own thoughts.
So make a point of getting to know your introverted child’s individual needs. See how she responds to different situations and learn from those experiences to help her make better choices in the days ahead.
Stay Calm with Your Introverted Child
Even though you may feel like your child’s introversion makes your parenting task more challenging, expressing anger and frustration over it isn’t going to help anyone. You may feel that your child is missing out on fun events and being left behind. You may also worry about her social development. But anger and frustration aren’t the answers.
Many introverts truly prefer to be alone and find great joy in extended periods of solitude. Because they enjoy the company of their own thoughts or a book, they may have different views on social activities compared to extroverts. Being frustrated because your child has her nose in a book yet again won’t help.
Introverts generally don’t enjoy conflict, so aggressive or pushy conversations aren’t going to accomplish much. You’ll have more success expressing your concerns in a calm manner while also making thoughtful suggestions. A gentle and caring manner that acknowledges and affirms the way she is naturally wired will be far more effective.
It probably should go without saying, but forcing your child into stressful social situations is not going to be an effective parenting technique.
Listen to Your Introverted Child
You may think a particular activity or invitation is perfect for your child, but she doesn’t want to go. In fact, if you ask her she may have multiple explanations for why she doesn’t want to participate in a particular activity. Listen to her reasons and then negotiate with your child by making realistic and reasonable suggestions that seem appropriate. For example, maybe she doesn’t want to attend a large party with 50 friends, but will happily go to a smaller get-together.
But if she truly doesn’t want to go, you need to listen to her and allow her to make her own choices if it is at all feasible. You cannot help an introverted child enjoy social activities if you repeatedly overrule her preferences.
Plan for Down Time for Introvert Decompression and Recovery
Introverts need time to recover from social activities. It doesn’t matter how much fun they had or how much they enjoyed the people they were with. They need down time to recover.
For example, taking an introverted child to a birthday party and then directly to the grocery store is asking a lot of her. By the time the party is over, the child is ready to be alone.
If your introvert has a social activity planned, schedule in the decompression time afterwards. Please don’t neglect this. It truly is just as important as the activity. And don’t be surprised if the decompression lasts for a day afterwards. Highly introverted individuals can feel out of sorts for a day or two after an intense social activity. Try to allow your child the time she needs whether it’s a couple of hours or several hours.
Accept Your Introverted Child’s Decision
Your child is a complicated and wonderful individual. If she’s an introvert, it’s simply a part of how she’s wired. She can’t change who she is, but with your help she can learn to understand it and work with it. With your support and encouragement, she can participate in social activities in a way that makes sense for her and in ways in which she feels comfortable.