Some parents are concerned with their introvert kids. Their children tend to be cautious when faced with new people and environment. During parties, they are usually the ones who stay seated with their moms while the other children were enthusiastically joining the games. And most of the times, these kids would spend more time alone, doing solitary activities, than when with other kids. This can be worrisome to an extroverted mother who is quite adventurous and enjoy the company of people. But even some introvert mothers are not exempt to this worry too. And so they wonder about the different ways of how to socialize their children.
What is introversion?
But before we delve into that question, let’s educate ourselves first of what introversion is and what it’s not. First, introversion is not an illness to be cured or a weakness to be conquered. Introversion is a personality trait that is biologically based and genetically acquired. Between introversion and extroversion, the former is not better than the latter, and vice versa. But there are certain areas where an introvert will be better than an extrovert, and the other way around. For instance, most writers and/or novelists are introverts, and most business men are extroverts.
Second, introversion means one gain energy by turning inward. This is why after a full day of being with the world of people, an introvert would desire to spend an alone time to recharge him/herself. S/he would engage with solitary activities like write in a journal, read a book, watch a movie, or play a solitary game.
Third, introversion is not timidity or shyness, which could result to having few friends. But what is wrong with having few friends when they are good kids anyway? Psychological health cannot not be seen by quantity of friends. As long as the child can maintain few friendships, then s/he is doing fine. Introverts are not friendless, they are just more comfortable in a one-on-one or small group interaction than in a large group.
What are the goals for socializing?
So now that we’re a bit clear about what introversion is, then perhaps let’s set goals of what we parents want our children to learn. We want them to learn important social skills that will enable them to be successful in their relationships and future field. And in psychology these skills are empathy (understand people’s perspective), confidence in making friends, ability to communicate themselves, among others. If your child dislikes conversing with adults or kids s/he just first met, that’s okay. Allow familiarity to breed in. If the encounter is just one-time event, then just a simple politeness will do. Your child doesn’t have to be a social butterfly.
The goal of socializing is for your child to be comfortable with other people and to learn and practise important social skills that s/he will need to have a fulfilling and functional life. The goal is not for him/her to be an extrovert and be a social butterfly. Your child needs to be accepted as s/he is and not to be treated as if there is something wrong with him/her.
Ways to socialize your introvert child
Now comes the meat of this post.
1. Enroll him/her in a class/activities of her interests
In psychology, one of the ways to improve a weakness is by bridging it with the strengths. This is not to say that introversion is a weakness, but more of practising or acquiring new skills. For example, if your child loves swimming then you can enroll her in a swimming class. That way it will be easier for him to practise his social skills with his co-swimmers as they have common denominator. And as he grew up, the skill that was repeatedly used in this area, could be translated to other areas where he will be needing these skills.
2. Preempt him if you’re going to a new event, whether one-time or an ongoing event.
Introverts can be cautious given new environment and stimuli. They aren’t like extrovert who plunge in without any reservation. So preempt him of who will be there, what will happen, and what is expected of him or her. That way, he can mentally prepare himself.
3. Arrange one-on-one or small group play dates.
As I have mentioned, introverts are more comfortable being themselves in a one-on-one or small group interaction. So invite a few kid friends at your home or set a play date with the kids of your friends.
4. Model good socializing and relational behaviors.
The parents or the guardian are the first people whom the child socializes with. So much of his socialization skill will be coming from you. Again, I’m not talking about the social butterfly skill, but the skills for necessary interactions (ex: work, project) and for maintaining relationships. Being polite and respectful of people are a must, but engaging in small talks is optional.
It is important for children to be understood and accepted by their parents. It sure is not a good life experience when a child grows up thinking that something is wrong with him. When all the while he is just a typical introvert child. It is good to socialize them at an early age with a consideration of their introversion. They are reserved in new environment with new people. They regain energy through solitary activities. They prefer small group interaction. And lastly, they have a strength of their own.