Parenting Introverted Children Well

Parenting Introverted Children Well

Introverted Children are Everywhere

All moms know how challenging, confusing and exhausting parenting can be.  However, the ups and the downs are all part of a beautiful journey that grows us as women, as wives, friends, as Christians and of course as mothers.   With that in mind,  I’ll never forget the afternoon several years ago, when I discovered that I was raising an introverted child.  My sweet friend Amy made me aware of the obvious truth that I had been so blind to for so long.  She opened my eyes to the reality that there are introverted children (and adults) everywhere.

Lindsay, she is an introvert.  She was just upstairs with the girls.  She needs time to regroup.  She is an introvert.

 

What is Introversion?

According to verywellmind.com, introverted children (and adults) may be described this way:

Introverts tend to be more quiet, reserved, and introspective. Unlike extroverts who gain energy from social interaction, introverts have to expend energy in social situations. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to “recharge” by spending a period of time alone.

 

My Extraverted Mindset Needed a Shift

As simple as that sounds, it took me quite some time to wrap my extraverted mind around this concept.  I am an extraverted woman who was raised around extraverted women.  It wasn’t sitting well with me that my my second daughter was showing signs of being “shy.”  (By the way, being introverted is not the same as being shy.) 

At the time. I didn’t understand or appreciate her innate wiring.   We live in a world that celebrates the social butterfly.  Those who speak up and advocate loudly are the ones who tend to be exalted.  In school, we show signs of our “smarts” by speaking up in class.  Kids are pushed to have lots of friends and are seen as mentally unstable if they enjoy solitude.

A homeschooling mom swimming against the current of traditional public school and status quo, I had somewhat aggressively been doing everything in my power to render the “socialization” argument moot.  My oldest daughter, like myself, is an extrovert and has always had tons of friends and play dates scheduled.   (I now realize that so much of that was rooted in my own insecurities.  A story for another time.)  So when my middle daughter showed signs of being shy and sensitive, I didn’t get it.

 

Thank God for Introverted Mom Friends

I am so grateful for Amy’s words that day.  We had been at her house for about 45 minutes.  At the time, I had just my two girls as we had yet to adopt our son at that point.  The kids were upstairs playing with Amy’s three daughters.  Amy and I were enjoying some downtime and were chit chatting and breathing in the adult conversation.  And then… I saw my little girl creep down the carpeted stairway and tiptoe over to sit next to me.

Looking back, I am embarrassed and ashamed at my initial response.

Honey, go and play.  You are here to play with the girls.

I don’t know what it was about that moment.  Like a stick in the mud, I was stuck in this belief that the value of a child is dependent upon how many friends he or she has.

This is me being really transparent.  I grew up in a dysfunctional and very parent-absent home.  We moved 14 times before I graduated high school.  In hindsight, I think that as a child and teen I depended upon my social world to give me purpose and value.  Like so many areas of parenting, God was helping me to work through my own junk in my journey with my precious girl.

New Perspective

Amy’s words were used by God to remove the scales from my eyes.  He was teaching me about my introverted child and my broken perceptions.

Lindsay, she is an introvert.

I’ve told Amy a billion times that I will never forget that day.  Her words propelled me down the path of reading everything I could get my hands on in regards to introversion and extraversion.  Being an extravert, I had a pretty solid grasp of what that meant.  However, I was clueless as to how introversion was all around me.  What I realized is that I had misunderstood behaviors and interactions I had with so many people throughout my life.

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Susan Cain’s Quiet

One of the first books that I read was Susan Cain‘s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  Oh my word!  That book was so insightful and taught me so much about my daughter, my sister, my husband, my father, my father-in-law and so many introverted children that were around me almost daily.  I later purchased Ms. Cain’s other book for kids:  Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverted Kids.   

Reading & Seeking Advice from Introverted Women

 

Ultimately, I have spent several years learning more and more about the uniqueness of all of our children.  I have created A Heart for All Students to support our children who each have their own gifts, passions, talents and different ways in which they process the world. 

My perspective of the value of the neurodiversity of God’s people and specifically my own kids, has exponentially grown.  However, as so many moms know, we must continue to seek out support from others who have gone before us in parenting and in experience.

Last week I decided to ask the amazing women in the Private A Heart for All Students Facebook Group to answer the following question:

What would you like parents of introverts to know in order to best support and love their own introverted children?

 

Introverted Momma Katherine:

Give them breaks! One of the best coping skills I gave my kid was an “escape room” or way out of anywhere we went. He learned he could step out and then I challenged him to come back in 5 or 10 min later. Eventually, he was able to take his own breaks or to tell me he needed one so I could help find him a quiet place.  

– Katherine Fain, Homeschool mom of 4

Introverted Momma Cheryl:

Stop making them socialize all the time. Encourage them to socialize with the one or two people they’re comfortable with so they don’t withdraw entirely, but them let them take breaks even from that.

-Cheryl Springer, Extroverted Introvert (INFJ) mom of 1 very introverted, very freaking smart (INTJ) teen daughter

Introverted Momma Meridith:

I let my introvert socialize on his terms and I don’t force it.   Personally, I definitely have some introvert qualities.  Often, I  feel the need to recharge with alone time, but being around the right people can also give me energy.  I’m also not good with forced interaction and am the one digging through her purse or going to the bathroom during meet and greets at church. 😬

-Meridith Curran, Homeschool mom of 2 (with one on the way)

Introverted Momma Colleen:

Not forcing kids to talk to people is a big one. It’s important to recognize that a longer period of time with a lot of people gets overwhelming. Sometimes an introvert struggles with including themselves.  Encouraging them by helping them take a step to get involved with other people is critical. For example, walking with them to other kids and start a conversation that can include them, or introduce them and ask if your kid can play, etc.

-Colleen Webster, introverted  homeschool mom of 4, 2 of whom are introverts

Introverted Momma Melany: 

I think it’s important to continually consider your social encounters and your motives for them. Did you say “yes” to the third night out this week because you felt obligated or pressured to please people?  Or because it’s what’s best? I’m a recovering people pleaser, and sometimes that even overpowers my introverted qualities.  So I’m learning to not be afraid to say no!  And I echo all the comments above about not forcing speaking and physical contact on a child.

-Melany Boltjes INFJ (extroverted introvert) mother of one introverted little girl, Virtual Marketing and Administrative Consultant, and wife of a pastor in training.  www.melbeevirtualsolutions.com

Introverted Momma Melanie:

I’ve found that sometimes my children need “coaching” in what to say. What is your favorite subject in school is a hard one for them–we homeschool and don’t really separate our subjects. We talked and now they have answers.  And I have also found that many times it is the adult who needs the help 🙂 Adults can ask confusing or strange questions. You really need to know a child well to ask good questions that make them feel comfortable and able to talk to you. My children are shy to most people, but put them in a room with the “right” people and they will not stop talking!  The same goes for me.

– Melanie Fulton, Introverted Mom of 4 Blessings, The Math Profs 

Introverted Momma Heather:

I am very introverted and am also a pastor’s wife which can be a challenge because I have to get out of my comfort zone a lot!!!!  Two of my kids are also introverted, one is on the spectrum.  Parents need to realize that their children are not meaning to be rude when they don’t engage in a crowd.

Heather continues,

They are seriously in a life and death struggle in their minds, and often overwhelmed and on the verge of a panic attack. Let your kids engage on their terms. Reassure them that they are safe. Let them stick extra close because at that point you are their safety. Their minds and bodies are telling them to run and hide.  However, they know you are also safety so let them cling or hide behind you if they need.

 

When one of mine was little he used to climb under my skirt if we were in a crowd. Rather awkward, but it was that or he would have a meltdown on the spot. As he got bigger, he learned that my skirt was not an option so he would hug me from behind and bury his face in my back. We would just sway and I could carry on the necessary conversations and he was okay.

– Heather Pittman, Introverted pastor’s wife and mom of 6 with 2 extremely introverted kids

Introverted Momma Jennifer:

I am an introvert. It’s ok if kids want to play alone at times and it’s ok if you aren’t the life of the party. Social situations can be super draining for me, so i have to limit how often I commit to outings. I do better in a very small group of people.   Teaching social skills to introverted kids is very important.  My mom did not teach me any social skills so making friends was very hard for me. I have had to learn on my own, in my adult life how to talk to people.

– Jennifer Reed, Introverted mom of 4

Introverted “Fur” Momma, Corinne:

Last but not least, a sweet new friend, Corinne, has a sweet story to share.  She is a “fur” momma who lived as an introverted child.  Here is what she has to share.

When I was younger, I was the only one in the family who liked music and reading to relax. So naturally, my parents thought that everytime I would go into my room to listen to music, that I was sick.

It took many years of explaining that I wasn’t sick and that I just truly enjoyed being alone. My family likes to talk, which is exhausting for introverted children.

It’s so much better now and my parents are a lot more understanding, but growing up, all I ever wanted was acceptance that it was ok that I was not like them and for them to stop worrying about me.
My brightest ideas were borne out of spending time on my own, when I was single or when I traveled alone, unlike an extrovert who prefers to bounce ideas off other people.

If I hadn’t stayed true to myself and just caved in to the pressure of “pretending” to enjoy socializing, then I wouldn’t be where I am now – a place of contentment, peace and fulfillment.

-Corinne Rootsey, I blog about personal finance and wellness at https://myjearney.com/

One Last Thing… Personality Assessments… a Great Tool for All

You may have noticed that some of my AHFAS introverted children experts had interesting letter combinations behind their names.  These ladies have found incredible value and insight into how God has wired them using a personality assessment tool called the Myers-Briggs.    I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment ten years ago at church and found it to be very insightful.  Like so many resources available to us today, this assessment does not define anyone of us, but is a tool to better understand oneself and others.    Check it out and let me know what you think.  🙂