I’M AN EXTROVERT! CAN YOU TELL??
Forgive me for shouting; it’s what I tend to do and drives my son and husband mad. You see they’re both introverts. For introverts this might be a ‘story from the other side’ or, more likely, it’s a story of how you might have felt growing up in a house with an extroverted parent.
I didn’t know anything about introversion until about 5 years ago.
Or, more accurately, I thought what a lot of people think, that introvert means quiet and shy, and extrovert means loud and confident. Oh, ye of little knowledge …
As my son began walking and talking, he was very animated at home and at pre-school, and that’s the behaviour I understand, so all good.
But when I excitedly told him I had invited his whole pre-school class to his birthday party (after all, that’s my self-appointed job, to organize a big party whenever possible), I was a tad taken aback when he had an absolute meltdown.
He didn’t want everyone to come to his party; he just wanted his three best friends. And I swear if he could have driven a car he would have broken into pre-school to steal back the invites. As it happened that was my job.
The next morning, as I was rifling through the parents’ letters taking back any invites that hadn’t been claimed, I felt really bad a) because I hadn’t asked him first, and b) because I had to have a few sheepish conversations with parents who’d accepted but weren’t on the besties list.
These things kept happening, and I wanted to understand why.
I wanted to understand why my son was so exhausted after school and never wanted to talk to me on the way home about his day.
Why did he hide behind me when someone he didn’t know talked to him, but would dance on stage when he was at his drama class with his mates?
How could I understand my introverted child better so that I didn’t panic when he was sitting on his own in the playground, and not force him to go and play with others when he was perfectly happy playing on his own?
And that’s when I started looking into introversion.
My son gets his energy from his quiet time, or ‘alone time’ as he calls it. I get mine from being around people.
There are things I’ll need to teach my son in the future about being introverted in a world that’s still led by a largely extrovert mentality. But right now I can give him techniques to handle situations as a kid, that I’m sure will help him growing into adulthood.
Here are some of the things that help us navigate our way:
6 tips for parenting an introverted child
1. Expressing feelings
It’s important to recognize that when an introvert is quiet it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong, but it also doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ok. Make sure your introverted child has ways of communicating how they’re feeling, outside of talking – such as drawing or having a journal.
It’s really important for little introverts to be able to express themselves, as they can have a tendency to internalise feelings and get overshadowed by their louder siblings and classmates.
2. Meeting new people
Introverts tend not to like small talk, but can talk for hours about things they are passionate about. Before your introverted child meets new people, try practicing a few questions they can ask when they meet them, that help steer the conversation toward their interests.
3. Group situations
Big groups – crowds, parties, even playgrounds – can be overwhelming for introverts. Try and get to the location early if you can. Let your introverted child get to know the space and adjust slowly as more people arrive and the stimulus grows. Have a chat about what will be happening that day, and let them know if people they like are going to be there.
4. At the end of the school day
Be prepared for a quiet journey. It’s likely your little introvert will be exhausted from their day. You can talk about your day, or just give them the time to recollect their thoughts and let them download when they’re ready.
5. Friendships and play dates
Go for play dates rather than playgroups. Friendships for introverts are about quality over quantity. Don’t feel the need to introduce your introverted child to new faces constantly or force them to overcome what you perceive as ‘shyness’ by meeting new people at every opportunity. Give them the time and space they want and need to develop close relationships.
6. Enjoying sports
Your introverted child may not gravitate towards team sports. Respect their preferences by letting them join smaller groups, or take part in more individual sports such as swimming or tennis. An introvert’s ability to focus in and sustain interest helps them to master things they set their minds to. Think ‘Serena Williams’ and don’t worry, your child is going to do just fine!
A book for introverted and extroverted children
Kate Savage-Vickery and her introvert friend Sallie Hudson have written a book for little introverts and extroverts called Meet The Troverts and need your support on Kickstarter, find out more about it here.