How to ‘Date’ Your Kids When One Is an Introvert and One Is an Extrovert

A mother reads to her introverted and extroverted children

You don’t need to plan elaborate adventures to have a quality date with your child. In fact, often, simpler is better.

As the parent of one kid who’s an introvert and one who’s an extrovert, I take my kids on “dates” to better connect with them as individuals. They’re teenagers now, and I’ve been doing this since they were preschoolers.

When our whole family is together, my husband and I and our extrovert child tend to do most of the talking. By setting aside little weekly appointments with my introvert son — just the two of us — I’ve learned so much about him. During this private time with me, he knows his quiet voice will be heard, and it’s helped me parent him more effectively, too.

As a bonus, his extrovert brother, who was a very rambunctious child, never gave me any trouble during our outings. He basked in my unfiltered attention. And, now that he’s a teenager, he still tends to open up to me more when it’s just the two of us.

No matter which child I take on a date, here are four “rules” I follow.

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4 Ways to ‘Date’ Your Kids When One Is an Introvert and One Is an Extrovert

1. Let their interests lead the way, whether it’s going to a local drive-thru (with the introvert) or to the mall (with the extrovert).

For our solo time, I let my children’s interests dictate what we do.   

One is a big reader and gamer, so we may hit the library or video game store. As the introvert, he prefers grabbing some ice cream via a drive-thru, but will go inside if it’s his favorite noodle place.

My extroverted son, on the other hand, is much more interested in shopping, even if there’s nothing specific he needs. He was always up for walking around the mall and getting fries at the cafe by the escalator. If the weather’s right, he also likes to hit the skatepark.

Now that my extroverted son is a full-blown teenager — with a busy school and social schedule, a part-time job, and a driver’s license — our time together looks different. Instead of wandering the mall for hours or spending a whole afternoon at the skatepark, it’s more like a quick trip to get new work shoes or a haircut. I’m lucky to squeeze in time for us to grab a fancy coffee drink or greasy breakfast together. 

But, point being, let their interests lead the way for your one-on-one time together.

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2. Your outings don’t need to be elaborate or expensive.

With the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, our dates scaled down a lot. And they’ve stayed that way.

However, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t matter. Throwing a baseball back and forth in the front yard is just as good for chatting and hanging out together as any of our more exciting, pre-pandemic excursions. 

My son might teach me to play his favorite video game (and laugh at how terrible I am). Or we could bake brownies. Or make tea from the fresh mint growing in our backyard.

With my introvert son, we might just sit together and read. But to make it more interactive, I’ll sometimes read one of his favorite graphic novels or Wings of Fire books or his assigned reading for school so we can discuss them, a mini, two-person book club. And when he read Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, we’d watch each movie of the series together, one by one, as soon as he finished each book.

Another easy way to interact is by listening to them practice their instrument and then asking what they liked (or didn’t like) about the piece. Or, we look up other variations (or similar music) on YouTube to listen to together.

A lot of our outings are just bike rides around our neighborhood. Or walking to the shaved ice place up the street.

You don’t need to plan elaborate adventures to have a quality date with your child. In fact, often, simpler is better.

3. Don’t keep score — just ensure you’re getting one-on-one time with each child every week.

One of my friends told me about the detailed schedule she puts together to ensure each of her children has solo time with each parent every week. And if that works for you, great. Personally, I don’t keep an official tally. I just loosely try to make sure I’m getting some alone time with each kid every week. 

My husband has a routine with one son, an athletic activity they both enjoy — same time, same place — each week. With the other son, they’re usually building or fixing something together.

Some weeks, it just doesn’t work. If it’s band camp week, or they’re away at sleep-away camp, or my husband is traveling for work, it’s not going to happen. Other times, one of us is sick or overscheduled. 

So I don’t stress it or force it. But I might try to sneak in a donut run on our way to get an oil change, or take one of my sons with me to get a car wash and a drive-thru slushie.  

4. After a while, the dates become part of the weekly routine.

Though we’ve never set up a defined schedule, or even really talked about it, I’ve been “dating” my kids for so long, it’s become part of our normal routine. It’s an expectation. A ritual. They know that if we haven’t had any one-on-one time in a week, I’ll be coming to them with ideas of things we could do together. As a result, they’ll sometimes pre-empt this by suggesting a new restaurant they want to try or mentioning a movie they want to see. They might even ask me to go golfing if it’s a beautiful day, or shopping if there’s something they need.

If we’ve spent a lot of time apart, they can expect that I’ll want them to hang out with me a little (even to do a quick errand or some chores together) before I let the extrovert run off to hang out with friends or the introvert shut himself away in his room.

We’ve been intentional about spending time together for so long, it’s just what we do. It’s part of our dynamic and our household rhythm.

You can do this, too. I highly recommend it. And if you’re having trouble finding ideas, keep looking, keep trying, don’t give up. And when you do find dates you both enjoy, keep doing it. Make it a regular thing. Soon, it will become second nature.

The goal is that you’re getting time together. It could be doing the most mundane tasks, like washing windows or cleaning the pool, or it could mean going to a rock concert or skiing.

Because I’ve dated my kids for so long, I’ve gotten to know them as the incredible individuals they are and the young men they are becoming. At the same time, I’m giving them the most valuable gifts I have to offer: my love, time, and attention. And they don’t cost a thing.

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