So your kid is ‘reserved’ – a bit of a loner, who prefers his own company or the company of a select few. He doesn’t open up readily, even to people he knows, and can be painfully shy with strangers. You are repeatedly adjured by relatives, teachers, friends and sundry well-wishers to ‘make him’ more social. You try encouraging him, offering rewards, pushing him forward in social situations, and pretty much everything that occurs to you, but to no avail.
What do you do now?
Well, first of all, you understand that being ‘quiet’ or ‘reserved’ is not ‘abnormal’. You simply happen to have an introverted child. Introverts are people who like to keep away from large crowds or noisy gatherings. Their comfort zone lies with a select few people, and in the company of these people they are completely at ease. They share freely, laugh and talk, and are even known to be the life and soul of such gatherings. It is just that they get drained from too much contact with people and need ‘alone time’ to recharge their mental and emotional batteries. Extroverts, on the other hand, get charged with contact with people, and too much ‘alone time’ can drain them horribly.
However, equally true is the fact that in these times a person who cannot be comfortable – or at least, behave comfortably – around strangers, labours under a grave social handicap. A conscientious parent is bound to wish that their child could be more open in social situations. But there is no need for despair. In their heart, your introvert child actually wants to mix with people and be comfortable around them, at least in short stretches. The trick is to help them adapt their comfort zone. Here are some ways that you can get them to express their feelings:
1. Make Sure To Listen To Them
Introverted children speak softly and seldom, so it is easy to miss out on what they are saying, and that makes them withdraw even further into themselves. Make sure that when your introvert child speaks, you give him your full attention, without any interruptions or distractions. This will encourage him to share his thoughts more frequently. However, don’t overtly ask him to speak up, because it might intimidate him.
2. Appreciate And Applaud Them
Since they seldom interact with people, such kids are often found to suffer from lack of confidence. Appreciation of their talents or achievements can go a long way in helping them to open up to people and feel safe and happy around them. Once an introvert starts feeling appreciated and accepted for whom he/she is, then it becomes easier for them to talk to people.
3. Arrange Group Activities and Outings Of Their Choice
Introverts have a preference for quiet places rather than loud or crowded ones. The activities of their choice also tend to be quiet games, reading, music, etc. Try to schedule family outings or friends’ excursions in line with their tastes. This wilI help them to interact with others within their comfort zone, and gradually, become more confident and outgoing around other people.
4. Initiate Casual Conversations And Draw Them In
One of the toughest things for an introverted child to do is to break the ice and start talking, however much they may wish to. As a parent, a simple way to help them is to start a conversation yourself and casually include them, usually when they are doing something so that they do not have the time to get self-conscious and clam up. You could introduce topics of their interest in the conversation, and before they realize, they will be sharing their thoughts and feelings with the group.
5. Be Comfortable With Their Silence
You need to understand that you cannot change their basic nature – only help them to manage socially so that their introverted nature doesn’t hamper them in life. So, learn to be comfortable with their silence, as long as they learn to participate when they need to. Moreover, once they realize that you are okay with the way they are, they are more likely to confide in you and let you help them. Also, be sure to give them their space and some ‘me time’ to recharge their energies, especially after bouts of interaction.
6. Acknowledge their feelings when you’re about to do something they don’t like
Introverts really, really hate having to get out of their comfort zone – and especially when people around them often make them feel like freaks, WHICH THEY ARE NOT! So, when you have to do things that they don’t like, be considerate. For example, when taking them to parties, understand and cooperate if they feel drained and want to leave early.
7. Encourage Them To Express Themselves Through The Creative Arts
Children who are introverts usually tend to be creative, and good at things like writing, art, and music, as it gives them time to process their thoughts and ideas. Thus, encouraging them to express their feelings and share their thoughts through creative media is usually a good idea as it helps them control how and when they respond.
Ultimately, it’s about encouraging your introverted child to share and express their ideas and feelings. And although you cannot turn an introvert into an extrovert, by using these simple techniques, you probably can, in time, help your child to become an ambivert – reasonably comfortable around people and able to keep his end up in any situation!
To talk to our activity counsellor Mehul Jindal, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 9999611160