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The culture of today prizes extroverts. Many see them as charismatic, smart, or engaged. However, thanks to recent research spearheaded by American writer and lecturer Susan Cain, we now know that this is not true. Introverts just have a different way of processing the world. If your child is more reserved or “shy” and highly values their alone time, you may have an introvert. As a parent of an introverted child, it’s key to understand their needs to provide better social, emotional and educational support for them. Here are six tips to keep in mind when raising an introverted child.
1. Understand that there’s nothing wrong with being introverted
Many parents might feel discomfited that their child appears to be shy. Susan Cain believes in acknowledging the difference between being shy and being quiet. Introverted kids are naturally quiet and they are often labelled shy. The negative connotation that arises can cause them to further retreat. There are actually more introverted people in the world than you might think – over one-third of the population in the United States is introverted. According to research, introverts might be smarter. The Journal of Neuroscience recently discovered that introverts are biologically different as they have larger, thicker grey matter in their prefrontal cortices, the area of the brain responsible for thinking and decision-making.
2. Don’t force them to socialise
Introverted children prefer the company of a few close friends to many friends. This is because they prefer deeper relationships and often feel overwhelmed in large groups. Some parents may worry when they see their child lacking a large circle of friends. In social situations, your child might be more reserved and cautious. Don’t force them into social situations and don’t pressure them to meet new people. Instead, introduce them to new people and situations slowly.
3. Build quiet time into their day
Introverts need quiet time in order to recharge. When your child goes to school, oftentimes they are constantly surrounded by people. For an introverted child, school can be an overwhelming and overstimulating place. Keep in mind that your child might need to recharge after school before hopping straight into tuition, homework, or even chatting with the rest of the family. Quiet time is important for introverts, so allow them time and space to retreat and get lost in a book, movie, or toy.
4. Allow them time to process their thoughts and feelings
When compared to extroverted children who might speak up at the drop of a hat, introverted children need time to think before they speak or act. Don’t make the mistake of taking their silence for disengagement. Introverted children are highly observant with rich inner worlds. These children learn through observing others and take in a lot.
5. Give your kid choices
Introverted children often have to adapt to school and social activities that are geared towards extroverts. For instance, free time at school might mean socialising, playing outside, or engaging in rowdy team sports. Don’t assume that your child should join in just because this is the norm. Let him or her decide what to do in their spare time - even if that means they simply want to curl up with a book, play an instrument, or draw by themselves. Don’t compare your child to other children. Instead, encourage them to hone their own talents and skills.
6. Affirm them when they speak up
Praise them when they step out of their comfort zone or accomplish something that they previously thought they couldn’t do. Both extroverted and introverted children are often raised in an environment that favours assertiveness and competition. This can make introverted children feel like they are left behind and don’t have a voice. Encourage them to speak up when they are treated unfairly by others and affirm them when they do voice out.
If you think you have an introverted child, as a parent it’s important to brush up on how best to approach them. Their social, educational, physical, and emotional needs are very different compared to extroverted children. Being mindful – and even encouraging – about the differences can help to ease any pressure your child might feel to fit in.