GUEST BLOG POST: Understanding Introverted Children: Parenting Quiet Kids by Christine Fonseca
Introverts and extroverts – two words that define our temperament. More than just distinguishing a collection of behavioral differences including social connections and communication, they are also terms that refer to specific hardwiring, how different people utilize energy and respond to the word. Extroverts tend to be outgoing and talkative, relying on neurotransmitters that support our fight and flight responses. Introverts, on the other hand, rely on their parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest response that enables them to be more thoughtful and reflective. Both temperaments have their own unique challenges and gifts.
Researchers estimate that 25-30% of the population is introverted, resulting in only one or two introverts in a household on average. What does this mean for parenting? Often we parent our children from an extroverted perspective, wanting them to have many friends when that can overwhelm them, or expecting a level of communication and connection that leaves the introverted child frustrated and confused. Fortunately there are a few things parents can do to help bring understanding to the often misunderstood world of the introvert and bring out their strongest gifts:
1. Begin with an understanding of both your temperament and that of your children – The best way to start parenting from the perspective of temperament is to understand how you interact with the world, as well as what your children do. Are you the type to crave “in-person” social connections when you need to renew, or do you prefer solitude? Do you seek new adventures and new information, or do you prefer to learn something in depth? Do you speak in quick sound bites, scarcely leaving someone time to respond, or do you prefer to listen deeply and communicate fully? The answers to these questions can help you understand both your temperament and that of your children. This, in turn, can help you understand what you and your children need in order to renew and balance your emotional selves.
2. Watch out for overscheduling your children – Parents today are under a lot of pressure to fill their children’s lives with extracurricular activities. Families are pulled in many directions and on the go all of the time. While many extroverted children thrive with the activity, the introverts in the household can easily become overwhelmed, resulting in emotional tantrums and significant exhaustion. Be wary of taking on too many activities with your introverted children. Schedule breaks in the week and encourage “down time” for everyone.
3. Serenity Starts at Home – Give your introverted children plenty of space to call their own. Encourage them to create a personal haven where they can decompress at the end of the day. Let them decorate the space and make it uniquely theirs. If possible, let them have their own room. If that can’t be accomplished, build time into the family structure when they can be alone in their room. Introverts thrive when they have their own space in which to emotionally renew, decorated in a way that is calming to them.
4. Build a Foundation in Routines – Introverts love a predictable world. They like to know what to expect and when. These things make them feel safer in their world, lending control when they often don’t feel in sync with the rest of the planet. But the world is seldom predictable. Help bridge the gap between the unpredictable and the needs of your introvert by creating routines whenever possible—routines around bedtime and homework can provide enough balance for the introverted child to give him or her the foundation of safety needed. At the same time, don’t be afraid to teach spontaneity as well. As long as the foundation is secure and routines are plentiful, introverted children can be taught to roll with life’s changes as easily as their extroverted counterparts.
5. Focus on Connections – Introverts thrive on the development of deep personal bounds with others. This is particularly true at home. Take time to connect with your child. Plan special outings or schedule opportunities to spend time together just getting to know one another. Journal together. Scrapbook or read together. These are all “quiet” activities that create bounds that will last well into adulthood.
Introverts can seem like an enigma at times, presenting as shy and aloof when the truth is seldom that easy. Complex and deep, introverted children need space and solitude to renew and grow. Confusing to most introverts, these children have a unique and often misunderstood voice in the world. Deep thinkers, creative souls, innovative thinkers—these are the words that can describe most introverts as they become adults. It’s time we understand their gifts and provide an environment, a home, where they can thrive.
Critically acclaimed nonfiction and YA author Christine Fonseca is dedicated to helping children of all ages find their voice in the world. By day Christine is a behavioral health specialist in Temecula School District and a speaker and workshop presenter on behavioral health in students and children.
By night, Christine writes nonfiction titles, which delve into the often misunderstood world of emotional intensity, resiliency, and giftedness.
Her non-fiction titles include Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids, The Girl Guide, and the soon to be released Quiet Kids. She is also the author of several young adult novels. Christine writes with a how-to approach, giving parents and educators practical steps for helping children face their world head on.