Modern society and our culture are predominantly oriented towards extroverted people and social norms command extrovert behavior patterns. If children are not outgoing, sociable and have many friends and stimulating activities, our culture considers this wrong and even unacceptable. There is an alarming lack of understanding and acceptance of introverts in our culture. We have to realize they are simply different as their brains are wired in a different way and that their behavior is perfectly normal.
All that taken into account, we have to agree that introverted children have a much harder job of socializing and making friends. If this is not addressed in childhood, there are high chances it will stay like that in their teens and adulthood. Even though introverted kids might not be as social as extroverted kids, everybody needs friends and it is our responsibility to teach them social skills as well. Here are a few suggestions on what we can do.
Learn about introverts
One of the greatest things you can do for your child, and honestly for you as a parent as well, is to get to know your child. Find out who your child really is, all kids have their own unique personalities, affinities, talents and their own calling. Don’t try to make them into something they are not just because society prefers outgoing individuals at the moment. There is an excellent book called Quiet by Susan Cain in which she explains the world of introverts and how their minds work. Her talks on the subject are gaining much needed attention for this phenomenon slowly but surely informing the world about the qualities and strengths of being an introvert. Realize your child is not disadvantaged, he or she has talents that the world is desperately in need of, like being a good listener, empathizing, processing large amounts of data by themselves, having great intuition and so on.
Meet your child’s needs and preferences
Instead of letting the harsh society rules shape your child’s experiences, dare to create the sphere of your child’s social experiences that best suit their personality and their needs. Introverts usually get along better with other introverts than with extraverts since their energy gets drained fast when they interact with extroverted children. They simply get tired and lose interest, and that is perfectly normal. Work around it, organize a play date with some other introverted kid from the family or the neighborhood. Talk with your child and see what activities they like and then find local workshops and courses you can sign them up for. They are more likely to get along well with kids who have the same interests, and introverts usually do have a large spectrum of interests. All you have to do is match them with the right people.
Quality over quantity
While extraverts thrive and get energy from doing lots and talking to as many people as possible, introverts lose energy that way, and they thrive in their alone quality time. That is why you have to find the right balance between organizing their social and private lives. Doing sports is a sure way to make your child popular and get them new friends fast, but frequent trainings in large groups would tire them, so it is better to look for sports that involve less people, like tennis, where they would still socialize but in a more meaningful way. You can save large high energy activities with many kids for special occasions like birthdays and celebrations. Make sure you arrange it so that your child enjoys all aspects of socializing, like exchanging sport souvenirs, taking group photos, doing a scavenger hunt for a hidden reward and so on. Also, think of safety, you want to minimize the risk of injury and trauma. One good option is to organize a nerf party where kids can play with toy guns that only produce soft foam.
Social skills are just that – skills that can be learned, and you will best help your child make new friends by being a good role model. Talk to them about your own friendships and how important they are to you. Teach them how to be good friends to other kids and how to accept nothing less in return. Encourage them all the time and praise them for any achievements and progress. Let them know all friendships are true treasures of life!