I am an introvert, raised gently by introverted parents and now raising my own children; one introverted, and the other very obviously extroverted! Looking back on my childhood I did not realise I was an introvert, nor realised that my parents played an integral role in protecting that fact.
In modern society introversion has become a dirty word, in a culture that has put extroversion on a pedestal, introverts can be seen as lacking; shy, socially awkward, weak and insecure. Introverted children are finding in their relationships, their education, their free time and as they grow, in the careers, that they must be an extrovert…or become one.
“How to become an extrovert” reveals nearly 2,500,000 Google results and as an adult it can be hard enough to shake off the negative view of introverts… but what of our children? How much more damaging may these messages be for our introvert children, who are just discovering and forming their sense of self and place within society?
From a young age these subliminal messages are drip-fed to our children; from negative comments on “quiet” or “shy” kids, the abundance of extroverts in the public eye and on social media, to the niggling feeling that we are failing as parents if our children don’t have an organised activity or play date every night of the week.
In schools our children often experience the same bias; the focus on teamwork and group learning, the design of open plan workspaces and large class sizes leads to highly stimulating, gregarious environments where introverts soon learn to adapt, rather than embrace, their inherent personalities.
It can all feel hopeless and stifling for introverts- it seems easier to withdraw from society, but for our children’s sake we must fight for introverts. Below are 5 ways you can help embrace your introverted children:
Realise the important role of introverts
In an extroverted society, we must remind ourselves often of all the fantastic introvert qualities and then verbalise these to your child. This can be especially tricky for extrovert parents, but books such as Susan Cain’s Quiet can help give an insight into the fantastic world of introverts! We must also challenge any negative comments or talk about introverts, comments such as “Don’t be shy!” or “He is a very serious child!” can seem harmless but over time become negative self-talk. It can be uncomfortable to call people out on this- but we must be brave!
Provide an introvert-friendly home
Create space for unstructured time every day, as well as quiet spaces within your home for hiding away- I remember fondly childhood days hiding in a nook or cranny reading books, drawing and doing jigsaws. Creating an introvert-friendly home also means recognising privacy- family members don’t need to spend all their time together in one room! If you have a mix of introverts and extroverts in your household, be conscious of introverts getting their voice heard and also carving one-to-one time with adults.
Choose the right kind of education for your child
Finding the right place for your introvert to flourish in their education is key- home education or unschooling may offer the best solution for many families, allowing for an education fully tailored to your individual child’s needs. However, other options such as alternative school settings, free schools and small village schools can all offer a more personalised, introvert-friendly experience. When looking round places remember to look at room sizes and layout, the presence within the curriculum for individuals’ ‘breathing’ space, as well as staff attitudes towards introvert-style learning.
Embrace introvert-friendly activities
Many introverted children don’t thrive at team sports or group activities and it is easy to get sucked into the idea that children must learn to love them, leading to parents shuttling around unhappy children from one enrichment activity to the next! In reality there area plethora of introvert-friendly activities: Individual sports including golf, fishing, swimming, surfing, cycling, horse-riding and martial arts as well as hobbies involving art, music, photography, writing, gardening, and even chess!
Don’t force social interactions
Many parents worry that if their children are not social butterflies that they have failed in integrating their child into society. Introverts recharge their “energy” from solitary pursuits, after a full day around people at home or school, many introverts feel drained and the idea of going on a playdate or to play with friends at the park, for example are the furthest ideas from their mind! Pushing social interactions when your child needs you to give them space to “recharge” will only cause tensions and negative emotions.
So those are your five tips! I hope we can all embrace the wonderful world of nurturing and fighting for the next generation of introverts.
Emily, along with her husband and two small children, is balancing modern life with a journey towards earth-conscious and minimalist living in the beautiful countryside of Devon. She is currently writing her first novel, alongside learning Spanish, growing vegetables and discovering the wilds of Dartmoor.
Find her at https://www.facebook.com/emily.bingham.9