6 Tips for Raising an Introverted Child

raising an introvert

It never fails at large gatherings of children and adults – at least one child is clinging to a parent, reticent to jump in and join the fun.  You know what else never fails?  Some version of the following statement made by the parent:  “She’s just so shy.”

It makes me cringe just to type it.

Some kids are slow to warm up.  They need to assess the situation before the run off and join the party.  More often than not, they’re trying to find a friend.

But some kids are introverted.  Some kids simply thrive in smaller settings, need plenty of time to be alone with their thoughts, and experience emotional and physical exhaustion following large social gatherings.

Make no mistake, introverted children can have very sophisticated social skills and enjoy being around other kids.  They just don’t like to be the life of the party or the center of attention.  They prefer a close friend or trusted adult nearby when thrown into new and overwhelming situations.  And they need to know that they have an escape.

Here are 6 tips for raising introverted children:

Remove shy from your vocabulary:

Some introverted children are shy.  Others are not.  Either way, shy can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Children know that shy holds a negative connotation for parents.  Children sense that shy behavior causes anxiety for their parents.  They hear their parents explain the behavior every time they enter a party or new social situation.  They are well aware of what you really think of shy.

Remove the stigma by removing the word.

Focus on your child:

It can be hard to feel like you’re the one parent who has the child who won’t separate.  You’re not.  Attempting to avoid the behavior by ignoring doesn’t work and leads to further clinging.

If you know that your child struggles to separate in new situations and is easily overwhelmed by crowds, noise, and too many activities in one place, take the time to help your child integrate.  Say a quick hello to your friends and then help your child walk around and assess the situation.  When you help your child get settled, you build trust with your child.

Check in with your child frequently during busy events to make sure that she is doing well and not feeling overwhelmed. 

Keep parties and events short:

Bottom line:  introverts can only handle so much.  Resist the urge to be the parent who holds out until the bitter end of each event and leave when you see that your child has had enough.

Focus on close friends:

Introverts tend to enjoy a few close friendships and prefer the comfort of home or other familiar environments for play dates.  Schedule regular play dates with close friends.  Try not to worry about future problems (will she have enough friends in middle school?) and help your child develop close relationships in the present.

Factor in downtime:

Introverted children need downtime.  They need to play alone, draw, create, or just sit with their thoughts.  These are the children who retreat to their rooms after a busy morning or slip off to another room without warning.

School, parties, and classes can be emotionally exhausting for introverted children.  They tend to experience brain drain.  Factor in plenty of downtime so that your introverted child always has time to recharge.

Describe new situations:

Whether it’s a classroom change or a party full of new faces, introverts need plenty of warning.  They need to know what they’re walking into, and what they can do to cope.  They need an escape hatch.

Tell your child, in no uncertain terms, what to expect and what he can do to cope should he feel overwhelmed or upset.

{ MORE: It is Time to Re-Think the Co-Sleeping Stigma? }

Do you have an introverted child?  How do you help your child cope with overwhelming situations?

What do you think?

6 Tips for Raising an Introverted Child

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. This is great advice! I struggle often with balancing the needs of my introvert with those of my extrovert – and then I’ve got one in the middle 🙂 It’s a good reminder that every child has unique needs – and responding to those make everyone happier!

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