When it comes to the introverted parent/extroverted child dichotomy, it’s about finding a way to satisfy both your needs and your child’s.
Recently, I admitted to myself how utterly exhausted I was, not physically, but mentally. I felt overextended, at the end of my rope, and I fantasized about sitting alone in complete and utter silence. As a highly sensitive introvert, I require time alone to recharge my batteries, and if I don’t get it, I feel drained.
Lately, at the end of the day, I couldn’t summon the energy to listen and engage with my 7-year-old son as much as I knew I should. Instead, I’d begun to tune out the noise and imagine myself elsewhere, in some quiet haven, with no one asking me questions or needing my help … until another “Mom!” abruptly woke me from my spell. I was desperate for some space.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic and its numerous restrictions, carving out time for introspection has been challenging, to say the least. You see, unlike me, my son is an extrovert; he feeds off human interaction as much as I need a break from it. He needs to talk and engage as much as I need silence and “me” time.
We do our best to meet in the middle, but it’s a delicate dance that’s so much harder to navigate because, these days, we spend the majority of our time together. To nurture my needs as a highly sensitive introvert, I had to get creative.
4 Game-Changing Parenting Hacks for Introverts Raising Extroverted Kids
1. Fill their social tank with child-led play — whatever he wants to do, we do.
When I became a mother, I vowed to be there for my child, to support and nurture him, and to do everything possible to keep him healthy, safe, unjudged, and loved. Like most mamas, I try my hardest to put my own needs in the background (that is, until they simmer up to the surface, demanding my attention).
Let’s be honest, though: Putting our needs last as parents is a surefire road to burnout. Still, actually making the move to put myself first didn’t come easily.
First, I had to give myself permission not to feel guilty about taking time alone when I needed to, before it became an emergency situation. To do this, I created space each day for one-on-one interaction with my child during which I am 100 percent present, no distractions. Whatever he wants to do, we do, and I simply follow his lead, just being an active participant, not trying to teach my child.
Filling up his tank in this way makes it so much easier when I need to take time for myself. At the end of the day, both our needs are met, and I’ve released that ever-present “mom guilt.”
2. Call in the calvary to entertain your extroverted child, like friendships with peers.
When it comes to raising kids, the old adage, “It takes a village,” is true for most children, but it’s especially apropos when you’re an introverted parent raising an extroverted child. On days I’m really struggling to keep up with the demands of doing so, I outsource, leaning on others to allow myself an opportunity for respite.
Luckily, my extroverted child makes friends with ease — the kid literally talks to everyone, which means he’s almost always got someone to play with, and that takes some of the pressure to entertain off me.
If your child is outgoing, encourage them to cultivate peer friendships. These relationships will nourish their extroverted souls, which is a job introverted parents can’t manage alone. And then, as you get to know and trust the parents of your kiddo’s playmates, it means you can send your kid over to their house (or yard) to play when you need a break — just be sure to return the favor.
I’m immensely grateful for my extroverted husband, too, who’s always more than happy to take over when my introverted motor is running on fumes. Their weekend “boys only” camping trips are a lifeline when it’s time for me to hit the reset button and disappear into my introvert sanctuary.
3. When you’re overstimulated, refresh your introvert soul by spending time in nature.
Any time I’m in need of a quick refresh, nature never fails to deliver. Studies have shown countless health benefits of time spent in nature, and for introverts like me, it’s extremely soothing.
When I’m feeling maxed out from too much human interaction, I find a way to get outside. Whether my body is calling for a long run or gentle walk, movement outdoors is extra restorative when I’m overstimulated.
Listening to an audio book, podcast, or guided meditation in nature is my favorite way to destress and regroup, replenishing my emotionally exhausted energy reserves. Whether the setting is a forest, an open meadow, a trickling stream, or the vast ocean, spending time in nature is the best kind of therapy for introverts.
In addition, stopping to reflect inwardly and satisfy my need for solitude opens me up to experience the appreciation and gratitude of being a mother. I’ve been granted the privilege of guiding an incredible and beautiful soul through this life. I get to be his safe place in this crazy world, a soft cushion for him to land on.
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4. Be upfront with your kid(s) about your needs, like needing alone time.
Every day, I try to focus on the amazing human my son is becoming. His sweet smile can turn the worst day around, his profound wisdom can catch me off-guard, and he has a heart of pure gold. It is my privilege to witness his growth.
And yet …
Some days, I am humbled by the demands on my time and attention. Those days, I’m on autopilot, but I’ve finally learned to give myself some grace.
Most of all, though, I’m honest with my son about my feelings. When you’re a highly sensitive introvert, it’s important for your child to understand that just because you need to be alone sometimes, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them.
Extroverted kids don’t innately understand the needs of their introverted parents, so it’s ultra-important to discuss your differences in an age-appropriate way. Being honest with your child is vital so they don’t take your need for time apart as a personal affront.
And, on days when alone time is just not possible, do your best to find ways to spend time together quietly, satisfying both your needs and your child’s. I enjoy reading books side-by-side in bed, indulging in a gentle online Mommy and Me yoga class, or looking for sea glass on the beach while my child digs in the sand.
Although the introverted parent/extroverted child dichotomy can be challenging, when you’re able to strike a healthy balance, it can be a most beautiful and rewarding relationship.