So You've Got An Introverted Child?
Maybe you know all about the life and needs of an introverted child because you're also an introvert. Or maybe you're pulling your hair out because you're extroverted and nothing about this sweet child of yours makes sense. Whether you understand her or not, she deserves allowance to be who she is.
Why Your Introverted Child Needs Support
We live in a society where politeness and friendliness are supreme. As adults, we understand that if a stranger smiles at you in the grocery store, politeness dictates that you smile back, maybe even offer a "Hello, how are you?" This is a learned behavior, and often quite difficult for even most adults to accomplish. (We've all had those days where nothing at all can snap us out of a cranky mood.) Those moments are magnified for our kids, especially when they're young.
Young children are adorable and everyone and their brother wants to say hi and receive a sweet, chubby-cheeked smile in return. For an introverted child, that moment of expectation in the grocery store can leave them feeling uncomfortable, even fearful. My five-year-old is as introverted as they come. When a stranger says hello to her, she resolutely sets her eyes somewhere off to their left and pretends they do not exist. I learned, much later than I should have, that pushing her to respond in kind would only make her more uncomfortable. And I'm also introverted! How can we empower our introverts to be courageous and friendly but also honor their personalities?
Expectations Start With You, Her Parent
The first step is to stop caring how other people feel. I'm being totally serious! All too often, we, as parents, feel this unspoken pressure to have perfect children. If my kid throws a fit in the grocery store, I feel like everyone around us is judging me as a mom and a human being. If my kid doesn't respond politely, then I must be failing at teaching him manners. If he doesn't smile at you in the store, it's because I'm not a nice person. These sound ridiculous when I say it like this, but we've all felt this to some degree. Our children are a reflection of us and we want to be seen as competent and capable, not embarrassed or judged.
So, step one, Mama, is to toss all those expectations aside and let your kid be himself. His tantrum is not a reflection of your parenting. His tantrum is a reflection of his own developing ability to regulate his emotions. Sure, you can help him learn those skills (and you should) but he's NOT going to get it right every time. Heck, you don't even get it right all the time! Give him grace and space. Grace for the times he's just not up to it and space to figure out how to manage his own feelings before you swoop in to help.
6 Ways To Support Your Introverted Child
1. Stop Telling People She's Shy
Your words have the incredible power to define your child. If she always hears you apologizing to those polite grocery store people by saying she's shy, then she'll start to believe she's shy. Newsflash, being introverted doesn't mean you're shy! It means you recharge your batteries by spending time alone. I know plenty of people who are quite outgoing and social and are also introverted. But if you're sweet girl grows up constantly hearing her personality defined as shy, she's going to internalize that message and she will become shy. Ask me how I know.
My vivacious, talkative, bossy oldest, when she was three, literally hid behind my skirt at the farmers market one afternoon while I had a conversation with a friend we hadn't seen in a while. After we parted, she looked up at me and matter-of-factly announced that she couldn't talk to them because she was shy. Couldn't. You guys... My heart broke that day. I haven't used the word shy around her since. And neither has she. Oh, she's still hesitant around new people. She still sometimes chooses to pretend grocery store shoppers don't exist. But only sometimes. Other times, she'll smile and wave.
2. Let Him Have Time Alone
Introverts recharge their batteries and recover from stress by being alone or with one or two people whom they know and trust very well. That meansyour child also needs time alone or one-on-one with you to calm down, find peace again, and truly relax. This is especially true if he's in school or spends his days at a daycare center with other children. Introverts tend to burn-out on other people's emotions or energy. We need space where only our emotions are present so that we can refocus.
Allowing your child to spend time alone in his room to read or draw or even play video games is perfectly normal and should be encouraged. When my daughter is feeling overwhelmed, and you can tell because she gets grumpy and snappy, she'll tell her little sister that she just needs some alone time. She's five. I've shown her that it's okay to retreat a little, that it's healthier on her relationships to take a time out.
3. Don't Force Your Young Child To Interact With People She Doesn't Want To
You wouldn't dream of forcing your child to hug a stranger. You want to empower her with the knowledge that she, and she alone, has control of her own body. So why would you force her into conversation with someone she's not comfortable with?
For an introvert, each day starts with a 'glass full' of emotional energy. Every interaction draws some of that out, like tipping a few drops over the rim. Interactions with trusted friends or family use only a couple drops. Interactions with complete strangers use quite a lot more. Simply saying hello to a stranger may use just as much emotional energy as a full hour conversation with someone she knows. Introverted children don't know yet how to regulate the loss of that emotional energy. If you find yourself constantly nagging your young child to be polite and respond to a stranger's advances, take a step back and reassess. Is it necessary for her to respond? Can you respond just as easily and both show her by example and protect her emotional energy?
4. Learn To Gauge His Emotional Energy Level
That glass of emotional energy I told you about... There are signs to watch for that will tell you he's close to running dry. When he withdraws from conversations with those he's closest to, like a sibling or you, he probably needs time to recharge. Grumpiness, sadness, anger, and a shortened temper can all be signs that he's done for the day. If you learn to recognize it, you can teach him to recognize it too. And that puts him one step closer to being able to regulate his own emotions.
5. Teach Her How To Conserve Her Emotional Energy
It can be difficult for an introverted adult to conserve energy, so this will require lots of patience and practice from both of you. Show her that she can smile at that stranger rather than say hello. Talk to her about ways to reduce overwhelm at school by knowing that it's okay to do the things she wants to do, even if her friends are doing other things. (An all around good message for our kids to hear!) Show her by example what it means to love yourself, to value your own emotions, and to care about your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
6. Protect His Emotional Space Until He Can Do It On His Own
People have expectations for us everywhere you look. Parents, teachers, coaches, and, yes, even strangers have expectations for your children. That doesn't mean your kids have to be and do all the things those people expect of them. I could go on and on about how unhealthy it would be to try to live up to all of those, but I think you get it.
Being Mom means you have the weighty responsibility of protecting your children from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual threats. If your introverted child freezes up around people, try to get to the bottom of why it's happening. If he needs more space, make sure he has it. If he needs more courage, equip him to be brave. But most of all, show him how by your example. Let him know his opinion matters, his voice is heard, and his self is his. The more you validate his feelings, the more he will validate others.
What Would You Add?
I'm sure some of you (about half, I'm guessing) are introverts. What are some ways your parents helped equip you to cope with a world that wants your undivided attention? What are ways they may have failed you? As parents, we're all just trying to do our best. I know I don't always get it right. It took me three years to realize the effect my words were having on my daughter. Thankfully, our kids are gracious and forgiving and they bounce back pretty quickly from most things. Keep doing your best and adjusting as you go and you'll do great!
Motherhood Comes With Plenty of Worries
Motherhood can be daunting. But I also believe it depends on our perception, how we perceive our life to be after motherhood. When I look back on the early days of my own motherhood journey, I feel I could have done things differently. I was very paranoid after I gave birth to my daughter. Often, I would run back to the room after getting a drink of water, even if she was sleeping. I was unable to leave her alone for a second and was always worried about her well being.
Big Life Changes Lead Me To Step Out More
When my daughter was 4-years-old, we moved to a new city. It was a big change for us as a family. My daughter began attending preschool. I am a shy person initially so it was very difficult for me to strike up a conversation with other moms at her school. I had to step out of my comfort zone in order to kindle relationships and find support from other moms. While attending functions at the school, I found like-minded moms, and then we had so much to discuss that it became easy to adjust to a new city.
So today, I want to help other moms do the same. I will share a few tips on how to keep your social life active long after the baby comes.
Strong Friendships Ease the Transition Into Motherhood
The best way to enjoy motherhood and the change is to have an active social life. Friends enrich our lives and provide a listening ear, a helping hand at every stage. So, why not after motherhood? It is the time when you need your friends the most as motherhood is the most unique change in our lives. Strong friendships can provide us a life jacket when we are drowning in the responsibilities that being a new mom brings.
There seems to be is a stigma surrounding parenthood that says your life changes and you can’t enjoy friendships the way you did before. It means there is no socializing, no night life. I bought into that stigma and suffered. In the initial months, I didn’t interact a lot with my friends until one day, I decided I needed to get back to my old life. It wasn’t that easy, but I had wonderful friends around who made it possible.
Now, most of my friends were parents also, so they understood my situation. However, many of you may have single friends or friends without kids. It may take more effort to connect with those friends.
New Friendships Make Parenthood Even Better
It is not easy to find like-minded moms and become friends. This often requires patience and acceptance of the fact that you could be rejected. For a shy person like me, making new friends requires effort and usually doesn’t happen on its own. It might be uncomfortable sometimes but it is absolutely necessary that we shun all our inhibitions while looking for people with whom to share our parenting stories and enjoy being with. You might not necessarily click with every mother you meet but you need to keep putting yourself out there.
When we moved to the new city, I started going out for playdates with the moms I met and their kids, so my daughter also made new friends and adjusted to the new surroundings. I also signed up for Yoga classes, and I made amazing friends there too. Yoga helped me have a healthy body and mind. More than that, it gave me a chance to interact with so many people.
It’s Not Selfish To Make Time For Your Friendships
Many moms feel it’s selfish to choose to have leisure and fun time away from the kids. In the initial months, I too struggled to keep that guilt away. But, with time, I realized that I was a better mom after spending some fun time with my friends. Also, by fostering friendships, we are teaching our children to value personal relationships and develop social skills.
If you are a working mom, it becomes even more difficult to find that leisure time. You may feel bugged with the guilt of leaving your child and going to work. It is certainly not easy to make time for friends with the competing demands of a job, home and kids. But it is worth it to take some time off for yourself and indulge in some late nights out with friends on a weekend at least once a month. You might also build friendships with other moms from your workplace.
How To Make Time For Friendships With Your Kids In Tow
As my new mom friends and I got to know each other, we arranged meetings for nights out at each ther’s homes so the kids could sleep even if it got late. We tried not to always speak about our children when we met, consciously making an effort to talk about other things we cared for as well. It helped us relax a lot; taking our minds off parenting and getting back to our old lives, the women we were before we became mothers. And, since I had moved to a new city and all these were new friends, we had so much to find out about each other.
Find Your Mom Tribe
The most surprising change that motherhood brought for me was when I started blogging. I started writing on various parenting platforms and made so many virtual friends. I had interesting conversations with my virtual friends and met a few mothers personally later on. That inspired me to start my own blog and here I am, sitting in India, writing for a US based website. Here we are, 8 mommy bloggers who are part of this amazing Healthier Mom Life Series. What else can I say? It’s just a happy feeling to interact with so many parents from around the world.
The only thing I have left to say to all the new moms out there is this: don’t feel guilty to have a leisure time. The laundry can wait too. Build new friendships and rekindle the old ones. Have fun.
About The Author
Aesha Shah is a blogger by passion and a teacher by qualification. She’s an avid reader whose passions are writing and traveling. She is a mother to an 8-year-old daughter and her world revolves around her family.She started to blog on various parenting platforms to share her experiences as a mother and gain some from other parents and later went to set up her blog on parenting, www.aboutparentandkid.com, this year. Follow her on Facebook.
It's Time to Take Care of Yourself
What you do is important, draining work, Mama, so you've got to make sure to take extra special care of yourself. You're the only one who will! Join us as we journey through emotional, physical, and mental health this April. We've got 8 awesome Mom Bloggers from around the world and the web to give you easy to implement, FREE ideas and tips to speed you on your way. We know firsthand how difficult mom life can be and we'll be here every step of the way with you.
You work hard, day in and day out. Without you, your family would fall into chaos. (Don't believe us, try leaving for a weekend and see how they do!)
To be at the top of your motherhood game, you've got to make time for yourself. It doesn't have to be huge, but your self-care should be a top priority.
We'll show you how to make it easier.
Mom life doesn't have to be so lonely!
We can almost hear you scoffing at us. Trust me, we totally get it. The mere idea of packing all your kids up for a playdate is enough to land you on the couch for the rest of the afternoon. We've been there. Just yesterday!
But your relationships are important! Learn how to prioritize time with people who fill you up.
We're not talking about dropping pant sizes. We're talking about being healthy.
What your put into your body and how you use it are major factors in your mental and emotional wellbeing. That's why it's so important to make healthy choices. But we know it's hard. Especially when you've got tiny little people at your feet begging for something all the time.
We believe in you, Mama. You can do this!