How to Survive the Chaos of Young Kids When You’re an Introvert

An introverted parent with young kids

As an introverted parent of young kids, sometimes you just need to be truly alone for a while, even if it means hiding in your car.

Before having kids, managing the overstimulation that comes with being an introvert and a highly sensitive person was easier. After spending all day at a conference or attending a big party, I would simply schedule downtime to recover my energy.

However, once I became a parent, my alone time vanished. Although I was no longer attending dinner parties or frequenting loud restaurants, parenting young children still offered plenty of overstimulation, from managing meltdowns to enduring pots-and-pans drumming sessions.

As a mom, I had to find ways to regain my energy while caring for my kids, a challenge familiar to most introverted parents. Over time, I’ve developed strategies that help reduce the overstimulation associated with raising small humans.

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How Introverts and Sensitive People Can Survive the Chaos of Young Children

1. Find some comic relief.

Laughter is a great stress reliever, and as a writer of parenting humor, you might think I’d naturally turn to humor in tough times. However, when overwhelmed with parenting, humor doesn’t always come to mind.

Laughing with my kids is a quick way to boost my mood and defuse stressful situation. This might involve saying silly things, crawling around on the ground, and snorting like a pig (or whatever animal you feel like play-acting for your kids — you need not restrict yourself to farm animals).

My kids can’t stop themselves from laughing when my husband and I do a role reversal, acting like kids while they play the parents. One of my favorite versions of this game is when they put me in a time-out. They laugh while pretending to be the parent, and I get to savor a few minutes of alone time.

2. Take a reading break.

My husband and I read to our kids at bedtime, but that’s when I’m most drained as a parent. Consequently, I’m sometimes tempted to rush through bedtime stories, choosing the shortest ones available.

However, my kids adore listening to books. So, when they’re using the living room like a Cirque du Soleil training arena, I find that sitting down and reading to them can calm things down. This approach not only slows their pace but also helps lessen my overstimulation by creating a peaceful, focused activity that we all enjoy together. It’s a soothing way to transition from the chaos of the day to the tranquility of bedtime.

3. Have someone else do the reading for you.

Any parent of young kids knows that sometimes you need to do simple things like make breakfast or go to the bathroom without a crying child clinging to you. In these scenarios, let someone else read the books. Some of my kids’ favorite books are by Arnold Lobel, such as Frog and Toad and Mouse Tales.

And, audiobooks offer educational benefits for children, like improving their listening skills and comprehension, and introducing them to new vocabulary.

4. Play a game where you get to lie down.

When I’m feeling overstimulated, I sometimes just want to lie down and rest. Allowing your kids some screen time is one way to achieve this (and I certainly use it!), but you can also play games that involve lying down.

One example is pretending to be a patient while your children play doctors. It may sound silly, but any desperate parent knows that a few minutes of lying down can be a lifesaver. For a while, one of my kids enjoyed playing a game where we both pretended to sleep. That was one of my favorite games.

5. Hide for a little while.

Sometimes, you just need to be truly alone for a bit, and if you’re raising young kids, finding creative ways to achieve this is essential. This might involve hiding in a closet, eating sushi in the car, or giving yourself a time-out in a quiet room for a few minutes when you feel overwhelmed. As long as your kids are safe, don’t feel guilty about needing to hide out for a bit. It’s a necessary step for maintaining your sanity as a parent.

6.  Use music to change your mood.

When I was at home with young kids and time seemed to crawl by, I would sometimes turn on music to boost my mood. I had to be careful about the music I chose, though, as some kids’ music was so grating to me that it made things worse.

However, playing mood-lifting music was an effective way to boost my energy when I couldn’t opt for my preferred methods of reenergizing (like checking into a hotel room alone for a weekend). One advantage of this method is that very young kids can’t yet insist on playing “Baby Shark” on a constant loop.

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7. Set yourself up for less overstimulation in the first place.

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is to actively prevent situations that could overwhelm me. Here are some strategies that have worked for me:

  • Avoid multitasking. As I’ve never had full-time childcare, I have to juggle working from home with caregiving and a multitude of daily household tasks. I’ve found that my most frustrating moments occur when I’m trying to focus on work or a household task and am interrupted five million times for a snack. Author Carla Naumburg has written about how multitasking can make parents lose their tempers. If I can concentrate on a single task, I often feel less overwhelmed. This isn’t always possible (like giving my full attention to my children while making dinner), but if I can segment my time to focus fully on tasks that need my attention, and then allocate different time solely for my kids, I feel less drained.
  • Recognize your triggers to avoid them. Being an introverted and highly sensitive parent, I’ve identified certain things that really affect me. Excessive noise for prolonged periods or being overscheduled for several days can deplete my energy and patience. So, I try to be mindful of what sets me off and, when possible, avoid those triggers. I avoid overscheduling my kids by not signing them up for too many activities, and I’ve even hidden certain loud toys.

Even with the best intentions, I don’t always remember to use these tips. So, if you find yourself getting overwhelmed and not reacting calmly, don’t feel guilty. All parents, not just introverted ones, have challenging days.

Being an introvert with young kids can be challenging. However, I try to remember there are some upsides. For example, you almost always have a great excuse to turn down your friends’ invitations to a night of clubbing or a party full of strangers (unless, of course, it’s a kid’s birthday party — then you might still need to go).

Want more tips and humor for introverted parents of young kids? Get my book, Babies Don’t Make Small Talk (So Why Should I?).

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