How many times did you find yourself overly worried or even anxious because you knew that you had to talk in front of other people?
While some people feel minor discomfort when they find themselves surrounded by a lot of people they don’t know or when they have to talk in front of a large group, introverts can experience full-blown panic attacks.
As a school counselor and an introvert myself, I will do my best to present my point of view and give a few tips to help parents of introvert children understand them better.
Recognizing introvert children
As parents, you could easily be confused by your child, especially if they act differently than you did when you were growing up, or they act differently than their siblings.
If your child is hesitant and reserved, is perfectly content to watch other children play rather than joining in, and likes to spend time in their room, you might be worried.
It can also happen that your child only has a couple of friends and teachers often say that they wish your child would participate in class more, but they seem perfectly fine with the situation as is.
If all these sound familiar, congrats – you’re a parent of an introvert child.
I happen to be an introvert myself, and I remember how difficult it was for me to adapt to a society where being an extrovert was a norm.
My parents didn’t really understand the extent of my shyness and believed it was something I would simply grow out of, and they often put me in situations which made me even more shy and quiet.
It’s important to go slow with introvert children, to introduce new people and new things slowly.
At a social event, don’t make your child go off and ‘make new friends’ the minute you arrive.
Allow the child to stand back and watch for a while before (or if) they decide to join the party.
This will make them much more comfortable and allow them to relax.
If you want to encourage them to socialize more, I’d suggest you start as early as kindergarten.
Even better, you could start by allowing your child to learn in an environment that understands that their needs are a bit different than those of other kids.
Fortunately, a lot of schools, counselors, and teachers understand that introvert children need a different approach when it comes to socializing as well as learning.
There is an early learning centre in Sydney which focuses on different things which will come in handy as an introvert child grows: communication strategies, as well as strategies of movement, and these strategies will help the child feel more comfortable and confident as they grow.
Performing in front of others
Even though I was able to overcome my shyness (at least for the most part), I’m certain that things would have been much easier for me if my parents and myself had made different choices.
Introvert children have issues with other people and doing things in front of an audience.
When I was a child, my parents would always ask me to perform in front of our guests and I hated it.
I would always make mistakes and everyone would laugh.
Today I understand that they laughed because they thought I was cute, but at that time I was very shy and believed they were all laughing because I had embarrassed myself and I always hated performing.
Rely on friends
Even if your child only has a couple of friends, don’t push them to socialize more.
Instead, you could try talking to them and gently suggest they ask their more extrovert friends for ‘help’.
When they are around their more outgoing friends, children won’t feel pressured to start conversations and meet others because their friends will do it for them.
When they are friends with extroverts, they will meet plenty of other people through them, and they won’t feel as exhausted or burdened.
This is the thing that helped me a lot through my childhood: I was fortunate enough to have a few very outgoing extrovert friends who introduced me to a lot of people I would otherwise be too shy to meet myself.
Things that are off-limits
So far I gave examples from my life, but here are some things that, as a professional, I strongly advise parents of introvert children to avoid.
Never criticize them in front of others, even close friends and cousins.
If you think that the child has done something wrong, you should talk to them privately after the audience has left.
If you chastise them in front of others, they will be too embarrassed to react and they will not hear anything you are saying to them, thus the intended lesson won’t be learned.
As much as I would like to tell you to follow several simple rules in order to help your child become more open, it’s never that easy.
Every child is different and what works for some might not work for others, which is why it’s important for parents to get involved more.
While it’s up to the child to make the big steps, parents can be a great source of strength and support for them, and when children know they can rely on you, they will be able to adapt much better.