In our extremely social, exhibitionistic world, being an introvert can be tough. Mighty Mommy shares 8 strategies for raising an introverted child to be a successful, confident adult.
Tip #4: Get Rid of Labels
It is important that we as parents stop using negative labels for introversion. Your introverted child will sense and appreciate your acceptance of her temperament when you let go of making excuses for why she is not outgoing.
If you can begin to see her as intriguing and intelligent (rather than inadequate), you will go a long way in improving your relationship with her as well as helping to build her self-esteem. She’ll start to experience her social nervousness as a fixed trait rather than as an emotion she can learn to control.
It's not a secret that the word “shy” is negatively stigmatized in our society. So I don’t make excuses for why my son is not able to walk into a room full of my friends and mingle like some of my other kids do so easily. Instead, I let him approach the group at his own pace and comfort level. Then I matter-of-factly make it understood that he is not being rude by not mixing in, but that he is not comfortable with people he doesn’t know well, especially in group settings. I don’t draw attention to the situation with dramatic statements like, “My poor son! We don’t know how he’ll survive in the real world if he can’t even talk to our close friends without freezing up.” That's completely counterproductive.
See also: 5 Ways to Speak Positively to Children
I accept my son's temperament just the way it is. When our kids know we are comfortable with who they are, they feel accepted and it helps them be OK with themselves.
Tip #5: Provide a Nurturing Environment
It is a relief for introverts to find other introverts with whom they share interests. They quickly understand each other’s needs, and don’t pressure each other to socialize or “party.”
Often kids will naturally seek out others with similar personality traits, but if your child has trouble doing this, ask a trusted teacher at school if they might know of other students who might be a good personality fit for your child. There's strength in numbers.
Tip #6: Gradually Expose Your Child to New Social Settings
Don’t let your introverted child opt out of new experiences entirely, but do respect his limits, even when they seem extreme.
The idea is to inch together toward the thing he’s wary of. If it’s birthday parties, for example, approach at his own pace. Let him know that his feelings are normal and natural, but also that there’s nothing to be nervous about.
When your child takes social risks, acknowledge the effort. Say, “I saw you ask those new kids on the playground to play yesterday. I know that can be difficult, and I’m proud of you.” Point it out to him when he ends up enjoying things he thought he wouldn’t like or that he was initially scared of. Eventually he will learn to self-regulate his feelings of wariness and take more risks.
Tip #7: Get to Social Events and Birthday Parties Early
Arriving to social gatherings early, when few people are already there, is a great strategy. This way, your child can feel as if others are joining him in his space, rather than having to break him into a preexisting group. Similarly, if he’s nervous before school starts, bring him to see his classroom, meet his teacher, and figure out where the bathroom is early on, so there's a comfort level established.
See also: How to Make Playdate Planning Easier
Tip #8: Accept Your Child for Who He Is
Perhaps the most important step parents can take is to teach their introverted children to understand - and celebrate - their personality. Try introducing the concept of different temperaments to your child by commenting about how other family members behave.
For example, mention that Grandma used to get very worn down when she was around too many people for a long stretch of time and that sometimes these things run in the family. “Nana never could last too long at family parties because she would get tired with all the social banter that went on. My brother was also like that in group settings.” This offers a chance for your child to realize that he’s not alone. It also opens the door for him to be accepting of himself because other family members have similar personality traits.
Today, my son has a few very close friends that he hangs out with on a regular basis. He will probably never be the life of the party or gravitate to large social gatherings, but he's still a successful student, worker, and individual and, best of all, he's comfortable in his own skin!