What We Need to Know About Introvert Kids and Socialization
Pushing your children to behave in a certain way because it fits your idea of what healthy behavior is can actually backfire and have a detrimental effect on your offspring. This unadvisable sort of “push” parenting often manifests in the area of social skills. Parents tend to push their kids into involvement with a variety of demanding activities that require a lot of interaction with other people. This can actually put a lot of stress on your child, so before you decide to enroll your child into acting class, school debate society or some sort of team sport, here’s what you need to know about introvert kids and socialization.
I know how this sounds at the onset, so I first have to dissuade you from jumping to conclusions: no, I am not advising you to cut your children off from activities that can actually turn out to be beneficial for them exactly because they are introverted. I am simply suggesting a careful approach if they are – it is crucial to encourage your child, not push them. The reason I know this is a very tight balancing act is not only because I am a mother of an introvert, but also because I used to be one too (I’ve loosened up a bit in the meantime).
Look for the signs
Of course, this all depends on the children themselves. Even though they tend to be very impressionable and confused, they still tend to know what they want and they’ll naturally gravitate towards fields of interest without your help. You should only jump in when they appear to be truly lost or scatterbrained. Still, this comes a lot easier if the child is expressive, but it is not insurmountable even if you notice signs of introversion.
Introverted children are not necessarily over-sensitive to the environment as they tend to appear cautious when approaching a variety of situations. If you notice your child is particularly cautious, and struggles to express their feelings, these are quite basic and good signs your child is an introvert. Other signs are a bit more specific, but equally clear. Introverted children tend to demand “breaks” from socialization because it tires them out. They revel in “me” time and tend to get absorbed in self-play. Finally, the most overt sign is if they tend to clam-up when they meet someone new, yet they have a tendency to open up when they return home.
Make sure the chosen activities help
This is where you come in as a parent. Before you engage your introverted child with suggestions, it is crucial to learn about what sort of interactions and activities can help your child avoid the trappings of social awkwardness. Enroll them in a sport that doesn’t demand them to engage more than one person and find an early learning centre which shares your values and has staff that works with all sorts of children. They can teach your child the necessary tools to tackle daily situations.
About the encouragement to socialize…
There is a long tradition in almost every culture around the globe that introversion isn’t a very normal or acceptable sort of temperament, especially among young people. Thankfully, scientifically speaking, this is not a correct assessment and scientists such as Susan Cain have made some significant strides in promoting introversion as completely normal as long as the behavior is within reason. The normal range is, as it turns out, rather hard to define, but you’ll definitely know something is wrong with your child if deviant behaviors begin to manifest coupled with complete shutting off from the outside world.
The question that begs answering, then, is whether you should encourage your introverted child to socialize? The answer is yes, but with a caveat. If your child doesn’t want to hang out with friends, you should absolutely let them have their way. However, you can liberally make suggestions that they should seek out friends who share interests with them. Introverted children tend to have rich inner lives and they usually obsess over certain topics. If your introverted child finds similarly mild-mannered friends who are interested in the same things as they are, healthy social development is practically guaranteed.
Such social dynamics coupled with the aforementioned activities should prepare your child for inevitable interactions and challenges without making them (or indeed yourself) feel guilty.
If you are an introverted parent, you will certainly understand the plight of your child, but if you are of a starkly different temperament, some friction and misunderstandings might be inevitable. The key under such circumstances is to look to learn more about introverts, their nature and the way they function in the world. As a parent, it is your job to make that first step and take extra care.