An introverted child has many of the same qualities and same needs as an introverted adult. But if you’re an extrovert — or even if you’re not — you may find some of the qualities of an introverted child to be confusing or even worrying. You may find their hesitance, shyness, or desire to be alone puzzling, even if you’re an introvert yourself.
Instead of playing with the mob of kids in the neighborhood playing basketball in the street, your child might prefer to hang out with a best friend, or even alone. Instead of joining the center of activity, your kid might prefer staying on the sidelines.
There’s nothing wrong with a kid who’s an introvert.
This is the temperament with which they were born. No matter how much a person might wish that their child were more outgoing or less sensitive, a parent can’t keep your kid from being an introvert. Your introverted child just gets her energy not from being around other people but from recharging herself while being alone.
In fact, a child’s introversion can actually be a strength, enriching her with qualities that will help her thrive in her own way. And remember: introversion is not the same as shyness. Shyness is about being afraid to interact with other people. A shy kid (or adult) is afraid of being judged harshly in a social situation; an introvert just prefers being alone.
How do you know if you’re raising an introverted child?
Here are some clues:
At the end of a long day at school or a day full of activities (even fun ones), your kid is prone to meltdowns.
For younger kids, temper tantrums or crying might happen frequently. For older kids, they might be irritable. A full day of being around people might require him to spend time by himself to recharge his emotional energy.
Your kid is hesitant with strangers or people she doesn’t know well.
When meeting a new person, she’s slow to warm up and may look away or not maintain eye contact. She might take a while before she engages with someone she doesn’t know.
She seems to prefer playing by herself to playing with other kids.
When an introverted child is little, she might like playing off to the side, away from the center of activity.
He’s not always a fan of trying new things.
He often prefers familiar activities, people, places, and interests. She’s not the type to leap into something because it is new and exciting.
Your introverted child may hate being the center of attention.
She may dread “show and tell” when she’s little or any form of oral presentation when she’s older.
He has a rich imagination.
He has a vivid inner world and often retreats to it. Often, he seems to prefer to live “in his own head” and may daydream a lot.
Your child will often retreat to his room.
She spends lots of time there, recharging and doing quiet activities like reading.
She is good at focusing on a single activity or subject for an extended period of time.
She has excellent concentration when she’s engaged in things that she enjoys or is fascinated by.
An introverted child may be more sensitive to his environment than other kids.
She may not like loud noises or bright lights, extremes in temperature, or even certain fabrics.
She could be more perceptive about what’s around her.
She might notice details that other kids miss. Similarly, she might see nuances that others don’t. When I was a teacher, it was often the most introverted kids who picked up on subtle jokes in books or movies. Although she is curious about the world, she may also be cautious about being a joiner and may prefer observing.
Your child has a few very good friends and not a huge collection of buddies.
Introverted children prefer being around select, trusted pals, and they are intensely loyal to them. They may even just be satisfied with one “best” friend. As an introverted child, I had a series of “best friends” all the way through elementary school. We would be intensely bonded, inseparable at school and outside of it. Hanging out with a big pack of kids on the playground held no interest for me.
He has trouble expressing his inner emotions.
He may struggle with telling others how he’s feeling inside. He may struggle communicating what’s going on in his inner world.
She may answer questions slowly.
When asked her opinions, by teachers or others, she may be careful with her answers, thinking about them thoroughly.
Your introverted child may be better at one-on-one than group conversations.
The speed and unpredictability of group talk may cause her to retreat. She may stick to the sidelines, listening and observing.
She doesn’t mind being bored.
She’s totally fine with a lack of scheduled activities and may actually dread action-packed days, even when they’re full of plans that she enjoys.
Some of these signs of introversion — the tendency to withdraw, to want to be alone, low energy — can also be symptoms of depression. However, introversion is not the same as depression or social anxiety or even shyness. Introverted kids can be mislabeled by parents or teachers as depressed or anxious, when they really just have a different definition of what’s fun or reinvigorating. Introversion is a personality trait, not a clinical diagnosis to be treated.
Introverted kids may want to spend more time alone, but they can have happy and rewarding childhoods, no different than their extroverted friends.
How Do You Help Your Introverted Child?
The first step is to realize that introversion is not a phase or a character flaw. They are kids whose bodies react differently and more strongly to external stimuli. They may experience the world in a way that’s wholly different than you do, if you’re an extroverted parent.
Next, allow your introverted child to have lots of quiet time alone to recharge. It’s not a dig on your parenting or a reflection about her feelings about you or your family. Don’t be worried if your kid has just one or two close friends. Try not to rush your introverted child into things — whether it’s a new activity, a new person, or a new expectation.
Finally, the best thing you can give your introverted kid is your unconditional acceptance of her temperament. Embrace it and celebrate it.