There’s no end to introverted kids’ potential, especially when they aren’t expected to perform to the standards of an extroverted world.
Introverts make up about 50% of the population, and even though words like shy, timid, scared, or antisocial have been used to describe them, those are stereotypes that get introversion wrong. While some aspects of social life may drain introverts, there’s no end to their potential, especially when they aren’t expected to perform to the standards of an extroverted world.
When it comes to your introverted child and their education, the learning possibilities are virtually limitless. You just have to know how to best support them so they have the same chance as extroverted kids to learn, grow, and lead.
Here are 11 ways to support introverted children so they become flourishing, introverted adults.
How to Support Introverted Kids
1. Affirm and validate.
The world tends to prize extroverted behaviors, so people may not always see the gifts your introverted child has to offer. One of the best things you can do to support them is to affirm their preferences. Do they not have a long story to share about how their day went? Do they dislike group settings? Do they prefer quiet and solitude at times? Learn about what they need, tell them you understand, and talk about why it’s okay to feel that way. The more you validate their approach to the world, the more willing your child will be to open up and talk about it.
2. Reassure them about social situations.
Even if you do affirm your child’s feelings, they may at times dread certain social situations, especially if it’s a new environment with people they don’t know. In this case, you’ll have to reassure them they’ll be okay. Talk about the event ahead of time to give them a sense of familiarity. Perhaps even get there early so they have more time to settle in. It can also help to accompany them to a school event or even to their classroom before class starts to serve as a calming presence. But remember, introverted children probably won’t like you making friends for them. They can do it on their own — they just need more time and encouragement.
3. Talk to their teachers.
If you notice introvert tendencies in your child, it’s best to speak with their teachers early on. Introverted children may feel uncomfortable raising their hand in class or speaking up on a Zoom call — two extroverted standards when it comes to participation. Communicating about their learning style can help their teacher craft a unique learning plan for your child, and it can make school transitions easier. You want to ensure they’re teaching in a way that resonates with your child.
4. Enroll them in virtual school.
This year, many parents in the U.S. are going the online route, due to Covid-19. The good news is introverts may fare better than extroverts in virtual classrooms, according to one teacher. But even under “normal” circumstances, online education can benefit introverts who find in-person school overwhelming. Online education will allow you to work closely with teachers to develop a personalized education plan. Moreover, since your child’s school day will be relatively flexible, they’ll be able to take extra time to think through problems and take things at their own pace.
5. Encourage class participation their way.
Introverted adults deal with feedback about not speaking up enough, and that hesitation starts in the classroom, where — like I said earlier — teachers expect participation on extroverted terms. Talk with your child and think about whether there are other, non-verbal ways for them to participate. For instance, drawing, writing, reading, and listening all qualify as participation, but don’t come with the same pressure as speaking up. Many students also find recess chaotic and uninteresting. If teachers encourage painting or reading, introverted students may find that time more engaging and enjoyable.
6. Suggest a new classroom design.
The typical classroom setting often doesn’t support introverted students, who need more privacy and space to thrive. In many classrooms, students are placed in groups or around tables to encourage collaboration. At the very least, if students are in rows, their desks are very close to each other (although, to many introverted kids’ delight, classrooms may look very different this year). So, it may be worth suggesting a different classroom design to your child’s teacher. Maybe they can have a large area for social children to work at and bean bag chairs or quieter places for introverted children to sit if they so choose.
7. Build in alone time.
Build some alone time into their day. This will allow them to decompress after a day full of learning and social interaction, and engage with their brains in ways introverts need. Let them be alone in their room to read, draw, or simply watch a movie. Introverted kids will need this downtime whether they spend their day physically in a classroom, or virtually from home, because online interaction is still interaction.
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8. Talk about famous introverts.
Your child may easily become discouraged when they see everyone else in class answering questions while they can’t find the courage to even raise their hand. Encourage them by telling them stories of successful people who experienced the same thoughts and feelings they do. For example, Albert Einstein was a brilliant man, but he did most of his best thinking alone. As an introvert, he accomplished great things — more than many extroverts.
9. Invite their friends over.
You might also have your child’s friends over for a socially distant play date on a regular basis if your little one is comfortable with the idea — or a virtual hangout, for older kids. By connecting with others outside the classroom, they may begin to feel more willing to speak to kids within the classroom setting. If their best friend is also from class, this may be even more effective. However, be careful not to force any social interactions, as this may actually discourage them from communicating with others.
10. Give them “wait time.”
If your child or their teacher tells you that your little one is having trouble participating in class, try suggesting a longer wait time after the teacher asks a question. This will give your kid a bit more time to understand the question, come up with an answer, and then gather the courage to verbally share their thoughts. Even a few extra seconds can increase their participation.
11. Discourage stereotypes.
At a young age, stereotypes and misinformation about introversion will harm your child, so beware of labels. If your child thinks they fall into a certain category of people, they might not be as motivated to learn important social skills. On the other hand, explaining introversion and its particular strengths can help your child learn more about themselves and feel less unsure about their place in the world. There’s a way to talk about introversion that doesn’t limit your child, and you should do so honestly and empathetically.
Introverted children are no less brilliant than extroverts — as we all know — but they require a different kind of encouragement when it comes to their education and the social settings involved in learning. Between honest conversations with your child and your child’s teacher, you’ll help support them to learn while being themselves so that they grow into amazing adults.