The answer? Probably not. Naturally introverted personalities can become apparent at a young age and, despite how kids are so often depicted in media, it’s not particularly rare for young people to be “quiet types.” Nor is it a problem that needs to be fixed. Here are some tips and techniques to better understand and encourage introverted youths.
Protecting or projecting?
If you’re a social butterfly yourself, you may not understand how your introverted child can survive with so little human interaction. You may worry your child is lonely, unliked by their peers or failing to develop social skills.
Understand that your child’s social preferences are not a perfect indicator of their social potential. Introverted children may prefer to spend their weekends alone in their rooms reading books despite having opportunities to socialize instead. Many extroverts assume that others only keep to themselves because they’ve been deliberately excluded by the group. In reality, most introverts are exercising their own agency when they choose to be alone.
Maintaining an active relationship with your child’s school teachers and peers’ parents can help you assess whether your child is alone by choice or if something else is happening. If the latter is the case, forcing your child to be more outgoing could cause more harm to their mental health.
Shyness vs. introversion
There’s a subtle yet important distinction between introversion and shyness. Introverted children may prefer their own company, but they should still be equipped with the skills to navigate social situations when necessary. On the other hand, shy children often struggle to respond when spoken to, maintain eye contact with others or stand up for themselves during conflict. Regardless of where your child falls on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, these are all critical communication skills that must be developed to live a happy life. Shyness and low-self esteem can snowball into serious problems as a person grows older, so make sure you’re not letting your child’s introverted nature prevent these issues from being addressed. As in all things, balance and moderation are key.
When it’s more than introversion
To be clear, there are cases where serious mental, behavioral and communication disorders can be mistaken for simple introversion. Trained experts—such as child psychologists specializing in the treatment of autism—are equipped with the knowledge and skills to diagnose these disorders. Since the early signs of these conditions can be very subtle, it’s highly recommended you seek out a professional’s opinion when you have serious concerns for your child. As always, Franciscan Health experts are available to set you on the right track. If you’re concerned for your child’s wellbeing, visit franciscanhealth.org/find-a-doctor/ to schedule an appointment with an expert today.