Growing up, I always had friends and enjoyed having social time. But, I found so much joy in shutting myself in my bedroom and writing stories, doodling, playing with dolls and reading. I felt good when I had quiet time to gather my thoughts, process my feelings and be creative.
That’s no less true in my adulthood. I need to have time to myself to feel like an energized, balanced person. I love conversations, but prefer those one-on-one, thoughtful musings.
It wasn’t until my early 20s that I learned (thanks to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking) that I was a little more introverted than extroverted. In fact, one source estimates 30-50 percent of the population here in America is introverted.
What is an introvert? “With introversion, it’s more wanting more alone time and needing more alone time to recharge,” says Dr. Dana Greenhut, a fully-licensed psychologist working with kids and adults at Child and Family Solutions Center in Farmington Hills. “They’re not so energized being around large groups of people.”
Chances are, you may be introverted or you know somebody who is. Maybe, that somebody is your child. Some introverted child characteristics that Greenhut notes you may notice in your child? They “tend to prefer solitary activities, spend time alone in their room, often watch activities for a while before joining in, tend to enjoy creative play, can be easily embarrassed in public, tend to have a few close friends rather than a group of friends, (and are) thoughtful.”
Seen these signs of an introverted child in your kid? Here’s what parents should know about raising an introverted child.
1. They’re not shy or depressed
“What I find is I’ll have parents who are really concerned, ‘Oh my child isn’t playing with people at recess’ – or whatever the concern might be,'” Greenhut says.
And it’s completely normal for parents to be concerned about their child if they don’t think they’re being very social with others, especially if they’re worried it could be social anxiety or depression. “Especially if the parents are extroverted themselves, because they view it as, ‘my child’s unhappy because I would be unhappy if I didn’t have people to talk to at recess or lunch all the time.'”
But many times, the child isn’t being shy. “It’s just a child who is more introverted and is completely content or happy,” Greenhut says.
2. They need more alone time
In order to recharge after a busy day or a particularly social day, parents should be “allowing them that alone time.” Children who tend to be more introverted need this time to re-energize.
“Let them have that time to recharge and process. So if you’re coming home from an event” – and everyone’s excited, talking about the event – “give them some time to process it,” Greenhut says.
3. Don’t make apologies and excuses
“I think using words, like apologizing for your child” – (i.e. “I’m sorry they’re not talking, they’re shy”) – “in front of them can cause the child a lot more anxiety,” Greenhut says.
Be careful that you’re not phrasing attributes about your child’s personality in a negative way. Saying, “My child loves Legos!” instead of “My child has a hard time in groups,’ for example, Greenhut says.
“Try not to make excuses for your child in front of your child.”
And just because your child is standing back, not participating in activities in a familiar way, or not vocalizing their enjoyment, “that doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying it,” she adds. They’re just enjoying it differently.
4. Don’t push your child to be different
Be careful that you’re not over-scheduling your introverted child on back-to-back playdates and tons of group activities. “I think you want to be careful about what activities you have your child do,” she says. “If your child is interested in group sports, great. If they’re not, I wouldn’t force it too much.”
And just know, introverted children are more likely to “choose a few close friends – and it may take them a while to develop those friendships.”
5. Talk to them
A good way to better understand your child? “I would say one-on-one time with your child is good for any child, but especially with an introvert,” Greenhut says. During this time, find out about what they do like. “Really asking them about their interests and showing that you care.”
“Just finding what they’re good at helping them develop that.”
6. Embrace them; they have strengths
Overall, Greenhut suggests parents just have patience and “focus on the positive qualities. They can be very kind, thoughtful and focused.”
Help your child accept who they are and “embrace their own temperament,” she adds. “You can do that by modeling that for them.”
Looking for more information? Parents can do even more research on raising an introverted child on The Quiet Revolution website in an article titled, “For Extroverts: 15 Ways to Be a Better Parent to Your Introverted Kid.”
This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.