It never ceases to amaze me that my kids turned out so different as far as their personalities. Raising them and learning who they are as individuals has taught me a lot about parenting, not to mention, people in general.
My oldest is an extreme introvert. That’s not any sort of test label, I simply made it up. The general term introvert just doesn’t seem to cut it for her. I work with introverts. I have plenty of friends who consider themselves introverts. I even married one! But I have never met anyone as worn out by others as my daughter.
It has not been easy, learning how to navigate life with her. We’ve had a lot of trial and error. I want to share a few of the things I’ve learned that help her, so if you find yourself raising an introvert, you have a place to start.
- Stay hyper aware of space and boundaries.
Space is one of my daughter’s best friends, both physically and metaphorically. If she could go through life in a giant bubble, she would be extremely happy. I’ve learned to take the number of people, amount of time, physical space available, and social engagement necessary into account when making plans. If we’ve already been at a crowded fair or recital, it is NOT the time to drop by a friends’ house to visit. When she gets in the car after school, it is NOT the time to ask her for an opinion on something or even a specific detail about the day.
- Know when to push those boundaries.
Unfortunately, we cannot shape life to our whims. It’s important for my daughter to know early on that there are times when it doesn’t matter what kind of personality you are, you just have to suck it up and do something. When we travel, it is sometimes unavoidable to stop by an unknown family members’ house after a big event. She hates this, but she has to figure out how to deal with it. Similarly, most sports involve other athletes of some kind, but I insisted my daughter find something active to keep her healthy and strong. We went through so many teams before she discovered swim, where there is technically a team but ninety percent of the time, their heads are under water!
- Teach survival skills.
There’s a wonderful education term called scaffolding, that I love. It means to build up support and understanding for a concept in order to help a student learn something effectively. We use this at home, too. When my daughter entered middle school, it was both of our nightmares. I talked her through what might happen during the day and how she should react. I told her about mirroring, eye contact, asking leading questions, and so on. Thankfully, armed with this knowledge, middle school went better than we initially thought it would!
- Change your view of what it means to “have friends.”
I always wanted to have a big group around me in school, I love hanging out with friends en masse. It took a long time for me to realize that my daughter doesn’t want that! Despite not having a big group that swarms around, she has slowly developed an extensive friend group, one person at a time. They don’t all go places together or hang out at someone’s house but several of them are writing a book together. I hear about things “my friend” did all the time and am so thankful that I didn’t try to push her into my version of a social group!
Whoever you child turns out to be, it’s never going to be easy! I hope that these few tips will help pave the way a bit if you find yourself facing an introvert.