Do you sometimes worry that the world may not see your thoughtful, sensitive child for the treasure she really is, because she’s not out there loudly asserting herself? Loud is not her way of being and it doesn’t need to be. Here are some ways to help her develop the quiet confidence that lets her shine from within:
Accept your child
If you’re an extrovert, you may find it hard to understand why your child prefers to watch the other kids play at a birthday party or is having a meltdown before the school performance. And even if you’re an introvert yourself, painful memories from your own childhood can make you secretly (or not so secretly) wish that your child was more like everyone else. In most cases, introversion is a personality trait you’re born with. Your child is not likely to turn into a social butterfly one day, but there’re other unique gifts she possesses. Focus on her strengths and treasure her for the kind, loving, independent person she is.
Respond to your child’s needs
Introverts are energised by time alone and can find social interactions draining. Watch your child’s energy levels, don’t book too many classes and events and make sure that she gets sufficient quiet time to recharge. Some introverts may also be highly sensitive to noise, bright colours or strong smells. Pay attention to your child’s triggers and minimise them as much as possible in her regular environment. The more energised and looked after your child feels, the better she’ll be able to handle social situations and sensory triggers when she encounters them in her day-to-day life.
Model confident behaviour
Your child learns by watching and copying you, so it is important to model the social behaviour you’d like to teach her. For example, reminding your little introvert to say ‘thank you’ and ‘bye’ will often have the opposite effect. If your child hates being put on the spot, she’ll just try to hide and stay quiet, at the same time feeling bad that she’s disappointed you. It may be a more effective approach to just use your manners casually and know that one day it will come as natural to your child.
Validate your child’s feelings
If your child is anxious in a social situation or cannot handle the loud noise at the movies, don’t dismiss her fears. Show your child that you understand how she feels and you appreciate what she’s sharing with you. Only then your child will feel safe and ready to take the next step that you may suggest.
Play games at home that revolve around potentially challenging situations like a school speech or a piano performance. You can organise a concert and all family members can prepare a short act to participate. Or you can take turns being presenters and audience. Do this without attachment that your child must perform well at the next public opportunity. The goal is not to make her do something she doesn’t want to do, but rather give her the tools to do what she wants but may not quite have the courage for it.
Take small steps
Encourage your child to be open to new people and experiences, but respect her limits. When she is unable to take a risk, look for a smaller step she could take and let her comfort zone grow gradually. When your introverted child feels understood, appreciated and loved for who she is, you’ll inevitably see her hidden gifts blossom. Help her grow into the person she’s meant to be!
Image by Lillian Zepeda via Flickr
By Tatiana Apostolova