It’s time for hard facts. This world is an extroverted one, and the outgoing get the most out of it. How does a concerned parent raise an introverted teenager and help them to thrive?
Socialising is an integral part of life as a teen. The teen years are the ones when young people find out about themselves. So if your teens don’t make as many friends as they should, why not give them a hand?
Why it’s hard to be an introverted teenager
Being an introvert is a challenge at any age since today’s world focuses so much on speaking out and being outgoing. Nature has wired the introvert’’s brain differently from the extrovert. In particular, the “fight or flight” aspect of their nervous systems is active, as research proves. The tendency puts them at a social and sometimes academic disadvantage.
Experts like Dr. Marti-Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage, share that an introvert will not feel fulfilled until he or she has alone time. She elaborated further than the dopamine levels at wild parties can overwhelm teenagers who are reserved and stressed that their quiet natures aren’t the result of a lack of social skills. That said, their habits entail that they don’t have as full a circle of friends as their peers.
Apart from having fewer friends, there is the problem of being discounted. Teachers tend to underestimate introverted teens, seeing them as being unable to speak up for themselves or provide adequate responses to questions. The truth is that if you discuss a topic that interests introverted children, you might not get a chance to speak yourself. Sadly, educators often overlook this inclination of theirs.
How do we help the inward-looking teen succeed in life?
Reserved teenagers need a little help with finding success in this outward-looking world. Reaching out to them is a challenge, so you could use a few tips if you are a hassled parent.
1. Encourage them to talk about their feelings
Introverts aren’t masters at discussing their emotions and prefer to keep their innermost thoughts to themselves. Teens, who are at the most socially awkward stage of life, are even more prone than adults to masks their feelings.
Provide them with an outlet for describing their thoughts and fears. Suggest that they keep a journal or draw if they aren’t comfortable with full disclosure.
2. Avoid labelling your child
Despite what you may believe, introversion is not a sign of social-emotional dysfunction. Introverted teens have different needs from their extroverted peers. Labelling them as “loners’ makes them feel awkward and presses them to believe that they are what you say they are. The best thing parents can do for them is to accept them as they are, quietness and all.
3. Teach your child to seek help
No man is an island, and all of us need help once in a while. Quiet teenagers prefer to solve problems themselves because they feel too embarrassed to ask others to give them a hand.
Teach your introverted teenager that there is no shame in asking for help. Doing so is a way for them to interact with others. They will soon discover that collaboration is necessary for progress.
4. Practice creative problem-solving
We can deal with dicey social situations if we think through them. Teenagers who tend to be introverted, however, tend to have more problems dealing with them than their peers. Model tough social situations and get them to suggest how to handle them. You’ll find that introverted teenagers are creative types. They will develop self-confidence, knowing that they thought of these solutions themselves.
5. Have conversations
Introverts may not seem to have the skills to form social relationships at first glance. They may have better-developed ones than their peers.
While they do not like to engage in small talk, they prefer to look a person in the eye and offer their honest opinions. They’re not avoidants but prefer more in-depth conversations. Help them to express themselves by having open, candid talks with them.
6. Respect their social preferences
Introverts are quiet and dislike the limelight. You’ll find them interacting with one or two people instead of a large group. Give your introverted teen a chance to observe crowds before conversing with people. Your child may be more inclined to join them once he has a good idea of how they interact.
Furthermore, don’t pressurise your quiet teens to make friends. Note that they prefer to do so on their terms and keep their friendship circles close-knit. Encourage them to make friends with other introverts.
7. Develop a positive self-image
Many reserved teens have poor self-images because people use negative words like “loner” or “weirdo” to describe them. Accept them as they are and avoid using negative labels such as these.
Make an effort to correct others who label them. For instance, if someone says that they are ‘standoffish’, use the word ‘contemplative’ instead.
8. Teach your introverted teen to speak up
Remind your quiet teens that their opinions matter. If their quietness makes them the targets of bullying, teach them to speak to trusted adults. Listen when your children talk and encourage them to verbalise their thoughts. Above all, teach them to assert themselves.
9. Nurture their interests
Your teen may prefer classical music and refuse to listen to rock bands. Find classes that will nurture these interests. Remember that different doesn’t mean strange. Consider enrolling them in computer camps if they have an interest in information technology.
10. Provide new experiences
An introverted teen usually resists new things. Tell them that everyone feels this way. That said, they should be adventurous and develop new ideas. If they still dislike the experience, respect the fact that they at least tried.
Your introverted teenager may not love the things extroverts do but can develop as fully as they can. As a parent, all it takes is to show them the way.
Copyright © 2012-2023 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.