As parents, we recognize how each of our children are different, or similar. Sometimes our personality is so different from our child’s that it is challenging to relate. So, when Jeannette Rivera-Lyles proposed an blog post on raising an introvert, I LOVED the idea. As a mom, I have struggled with how to relate to an introvert. Jeannette tells us her experience and brings in an expert. I think you will enjoy her post.
Your Teen’s Introversion is Just Who He is, Embrace it
By: Jeannette Rivera-Lyles
If you are parenting an introverted teenager, chances are you often feel like you’d do better if you could read minds or even tea leaves. Either one could offer more insight into what’s going on inside his head than asking “How are you?”.
I know it because if have an introverted 15-year-old son, James. He spends lots of time in his room drawing or playing in his computer, prefers to socialize with a small group of friends, and often can be a complete enigma as he is not one to verbalize his thoughts regularly.
At times, I have been worried about him. I have feared the possibility that his behavior may stem from depression or insecurity. But for the most, though, he seems happy, is caring, eats and sleeps well, and is a good student who stays on top of an overwhelming amount of homework. So, I reached out to my friend Dr. Kathy McHugh, an Orlando-based licensed psychologist who treats adolescents, to help me sort out what is going on.
Here’s the takeaway from Dr. McHugh:
- Introverts draw their energy from solitude. They are depleted by too much external stimulus and thrive in reflection and solitude. By contrast, extraverts’ energy is increased by spending time in busy, stimulating places often with lots of people. Understanding this difference is key. Resist the urge to force your introvert teen out of his room or to make him socialize more than he wants. “Wanting to be alone isn’t the same as withdrawing, which could be a sign of depression,” Kathy said. “If he has dinner with the family, comes out to watch a TV show with his siblings and participates in family activities, he’s not withdrawing but seeking time alone. This is how an introvert decompresses and recharges.”
- Do not try to change an introvert. This is not a phase, it’s who they are. Let them know you respect that. There’s a false notion that a healthy teenager is only the one who socializes regularly, has tons of friends and is involved in many activities. This just isn’t true, Kathy explained. “It is just as fine to be a reserved person, who enjoys introspection, and prefers to have just a few friends with whom to share meaningful connections,” she said.
- Allow an introvert to decompress first before attempting conversation. When she arrives home from school, after hours with hundreds of kids and loud hallways, she’s likely craving time alone. This may not be the best time to start asking questions. Your introverted teenager may be more responsive if you engage her in conversation after she’s had some time alone. And when she opens up, don’t interrupt while she’s talking.
- Be aware that intelligence, wisdom and success aren’t exclusive to extraverted personalities. Some of the most successful introverts in history include Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling and Meryl Streep, according to Inc. Magazine.
A teenager’s introversion may be problematic at times for me and you as parents, but not for the teen. I have learned to be patient, take the time to look at things from my son’s perspective. To do this, we may need to allowing our teen to spend more time secluded in his room. My son, like many other introverts, see his room as a peaceful haven. I’ve learned that it is okay for him to spend extended periods of time behind closed doors, as long as I know what he is doing and that he is safe. I drop by periodically to check on him, and use the opportunity to allow him to have a private space that everyone in the family respects.
One more thing, our introverted teens must be ready for a world in which at least 75% of individuals are extroverts. I realize I can’t shield my son from the different personalities types in his environment. I am very much an extrovert and I have found that sharing with James my personality needs (I like people, parties, music) and how these things fill me with joy and positive energy, helps him understand the uniqueness and positive attributes of both approaches.
Have faith. Your introverted teenager can thrive and accomplish as successfully as any outgoing kid. I truly believe it!