Minor hockey in our family was simply a ways to a means. And no, not a means to a budding NHL career, but a means to a play date – the after hockey play date!
I thought every child would squeal with delight at the prospect of continuing this day of fun together with their teammates at someone’s house, but while my son was always included in the invitations, rarely did he ever want to go. I just couldn’t understand why not and would worry that something was wrong with him.
My son never verbalized exactly why he didn’t want to go, only that he just didn’t want to. It wasn’t that he was shy, because when he was with his friends, he was always joined in and appeared to be having a great time. But still this mystified me; I worried that his not wanting to go to these noisy gatherings might cause him to lose friends, so I thought that this was a sign of something that I needed to keep an eye on.
It took me a while to figure out that my son is simply an introvert. While he enjoys being around his friends, he also needs time to recharge. Introverts are often drained by spending time in large crowds; they regain their energy with some quiet time, usually alone. Extroverts, on the other hand, regain their energy from being around people. Most people fall somewhere on this introvert – extravert continuum.
It’s very important to understand that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. It’s not a character flaw. Introverted people are social, well-adjusted and can have many friends. They often just need more downtime, and prefer smaller gatherings to large ones.
When parenting introverts:
- Accept them for who they are. Introverts do not have a character flaw.
- Allow your child time to warm up to new people and situations. A good tip is to arrive early at large gatherings.
- Help them find their passion; this allows them to socialize with like-minded people.
- Encourage your child to find their voice. Introverts sometimes just need more time to think things over. Help them value their own opinion.
- Celebrate and praise your child for who they are.
As author Susan Cain says:
“Introverted children are often kind, thoughtful, focused, and very interesting company, as long as they’re in settings that work for them.”
Susan Cain has a great Ted talk about the power of introverts. If you are parenting an introvert (or are one yourself), it’s a great listen.
I now understand my son’s need for quiet time. He enjoys being with his friends, but also enjoys quiet time alone and family time together. Right now I’m just cherishing every moment instead of worrying about it, as this precious time can be a little rare in the teen years.
Do you have stories to share about parenting an introvert?
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.
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This article was really helpful because at first I thought my son just didn’t want to talk to me. It was quite depressing seeing him all alone or with a few friends.
However, I slowly realized that it was just his personality, and that he did care and love for me but he just couldn’t show it as much.
Thank you for this great piece Cynthia!