I am an introvert. Not a full on hermit hiding in my shell introvert, but by nature I am quiet, reserved and keep to myself. I have actually had to work (and I still am working) on opening myself up in social situations. I’m pretty awkward, but once I get comfortable with someone I open up. I prefer to keep my circle of friends small. So having a child that is an extrovert and loves making friends gives me a little anxiety at times. Hey, I’m just being honest.
Motherhood brings rewards and happiness like no other, however, as an introvert, it can also often leave me feeling drained and in desperate need of me time. My daughter, H, thrives on social interaction. Her need for it far exceeds my own. Here are some tips that I personally go by on raising an extroverted child when you’re an introverted parent.
Take time for yourself to recharge
This is a big one for me.
There have been times that H’s need for social interaction has caused me to feel stressed out. It can sometimes be exhausting, especially when I’m thrown into the situation of meeting a new mom at the park or at school. This stress (albeit often self-induced), sometimes leads to me being in a pretty foul mood at the end of the day. H, like most kids, can pick up on my feelings, often quicker than my husband. As a result, she acts out, feels sad or sometimes just shuts down.
I’ve found that on these days if I can carve out 30 minutes to an hour, I am able to handle my stress much better. I personally spend this time alone reading a book, catching up on some blogs, taking a walk, if the weather is nice, or just popping a bath bomb in and unwinding in the tub. After I feel fully recharged and brand new. H understands that this me time is crucial for not only me but her as well as taking care of her is much easier when I’m less stressed. She usually spends this time rough housing with my husband.
Allow time for interaction
Remember when I said H’s need for social interaction exceeds my own? Yeah, so there was a time in her life where she and I just sat at home during the day, reading and playing. I didn’t care for going out to the park, library or play groups and I definitely didn’t want to be hosting play groups in my home (still don’t!!). I knew early like at 6 months she was an extrovert, but I just did not want to socialize. In my defense, I don’t think me being an introvert was 100% to blame for that. Although it played a role, at the time, I was very unhappy where we were living, maybe even borderline depressed. I just wanted to stay locked in my home until we could move again. I absolutely hate that I did that to her and am very ashamed that I let my feelings keep her from the social interaction that she needed.
Opportunities for social interaction are important for kids who are extroverts. Once we moved, I decided I no longer was going to allow being an introvert get in the way of H’s social needs. I scoured the internet for local play groups in my area. I joined a mom’s club (talk about putting yourself out there), and even though that really didn’t work out for us, it opened the door for me to see all the parks and activities my area had to offer. I then began to go out and explore those areas with H in tow. I also started to see that my neighbor and her kids played outside at nearly the same time every day. So, H and I joined. I started to see a different kid. This also has allowed me to come out of my shell a little more and feel more comfortable socially. Playgroups, lunches with friends who have kids, parks and even the library are all great ways for kids (and you) to have social interaction.
School and your extrovert
As soon as H was old enough to be enrolled in preschool I did it. This allows her to start getting an education and to socialize. I think that enrolling H in school was the best thing thus far that I have done for her. Her vocabulary has grown exponentially, she has tons of friends, and she has learned new ways to socialize and play.
If your kids are old enough, extracurricular activities are a major plus. Getting them involved in something that they are interested in, sports, theater, etc, allows them to build and maintain friendships with like-minded people.
School and extracurricular activities allow for you as the introverted parent to sometimes take a step back from the social interaction and can provide you time to relax and unwind as well.
Extroverted children can sometimes be a handful as an introverted parent, trust me I know. Meeting new people and making new friends may not be high on your priority list, but it is important for your child. Each opportunity that they get to interact with others gives them the chance to develop their social skills and even possibly earn a new friend.