Chances are, if you’ve learned nothing else from our recent time spent “social distancing” and quarantining over the past month, you can now probably classify yourself and your family members as introverts or extroverts with much precision.
For those who are introverts, there’s a chance that the order to stay home and restrict contact with others outside of the home was like a dream come true, and for those extroverts among us, the social isolation has probably been the most painful aspect of this situation.
Then, there are those of us who fall all over the spectrum between “introvert” and “extrovert,” who have likely found some solace in quiet time, but who are also more than ready to resume social get-togethers and hug the neck of every one of their friends.
In my home, my kids and I (mostly) lean “introvert.”
I’ve always been an introvert, and as a child, I was often chastised for being too shy or too “stuck up,” in social situations. As a result, it’s taken me 40 years to get over that and to embrace who I am and where and how I get my energy restored. Luckily, I’m now also able to help my children navigate a world that is often unkind to introverts, by giving them some tools to help them function and to be more easily understood in society.
Here are a few things that I’ve taught my introverts, to help them cope in awkward situations.
Make eye contact when people, most especially adults, speak to you. It often goes against everything that feels comfortable to an introverted child, but I gently remind my kids often to make, and hold, eye contact when speaking with an adult. I also remind them that it’s easier for adults to understand what they’re saying if they make eye contact when they’re speaking since shy voices can be much quieter in these situations.
Remember Your Manners
You don’t have to talk more than you’re comfortable talking with other people, but you do have to be polite, respectful, and answer questions that are directed at you. Sometimes my son’s shyness causes him to clam-up completely when confronted with chatty strangers. We work on ways to respond that are comfortable, get the point across, and are socially acceptable. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we…don’t. It’s a work in progress.
Alone Time is A-OK
It’s ok to excuse yourself if you need a little alone time. For years, no matter who was coming to visit or how excited my son was to see them, as soon as their car would pull up in the driveway, he would sprint off to his room and stay there until about 20 minutes into the person’s visit–sometimes longer. (I don’t think that he likes all of the fanfare and attention that comes from an entrance.) It’s always better to seek out a quiet space to gather your thoughts and reset yourself, than it is to push through and find yourself shutting down and acting out because you aren’t honoring your needs.
We Can’t All Be Friends
You don’t have to like everyone but you do have to be kind. A few years ago, I took my son to a birthday party for one of his classmates. As soon as a child whom he’s not particularly fond of walked in, my son rolled his eyes and said (louder than I would’ve liked), “GAH! Freddy is here….ugh!” I told him later that it’s totally normal not to like everyone all the time, but that it was probably best if he kept those feelings of disappointment about Freddy’s attendance at the party to himself.
Most of all though, I want my kids to know that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. We’re all built a little differently. Some of us thrive in social situations and some of us have to work a little harder to make social situations work for us.
My goal is to raise introverted children who know and unashamedly honor their own feelings and needs. It took me way too long to understand my own introvertedness and it made me a better person (to myself and others) once I realized what my limits were.
I want the same for my children, but earlier in life.
Are you (or have you) raised any introverted children? Any tips or advice on helping them to navigate life?