10 Ways to Help Your Introverted Child Make Friend

Some children are naturally shy, and that shyness goes beyond the usual warming up period in getting to know someone.  In a culture that prizes extroverts, these kids can experience social growing pains that many of us never even think about.
 
For example, in school, when the teacher calls on them to answer a question, the feeling of being watched by their classmates is not just uncomfortable, it’s unbearable.  Birthday parties are scary and the playground is a daily challenge. 
 
There is a growing awareness that socializing an introverted kid is a little different, that there are things we can do as parents to ease them into social situations without undue anxiety.  Here are some ways to support and celebrate your child’s personality.  
 
1. One-on-one for new friends. Introverts tend to do better when they are socializing with one person at a time.  Set up play dates with one child first, and create activities for them to do.  Even if they end up in “parallel play” where each of them is do something separate, they will have the chance to interact.  Never force kids to play together, allow them to choose their interactions.
 
2. Introduce your child to new people and situations slowly To avoid the overwhelmed or anxious feelings your child might feel in new environments and around new people, slow it down. At social events, don’t pressure your child to jump into the action and chat with other children right away. If possible, arrive early so your child can get acquainted in that space and feel like other people are entering a space she already “owns,” or understands.
 
3. Let your child be an observer. It’s okay for your child stand back from the action at a comfortable distance—perhaps near you, and simply watch the event for a few minutes.
 
4. Prepare your child for social situations in advance. Discuss the event ahead of time with your child, talking about who will be there, what will likely happen, how he or she might feel, and suggest how to start a conversation.
 
5. Stay social. No matter what new experience you’re getting your child accustomed to, remember: go slowly, but don’t forgo gatherings.  We want our children to understand the value of groups, and how important it is that we show up for our friends. 
 
6. Take breaks. Remind your child that he or she can take breaks from socializing if feeling overwhelmed or tired. While extroverts feel energized by socializing, introverts are in the opposite camp – they get drained. Just going to the bathroom or stepping outside for a moment is fine.
 
7. Praise your child when he or she takes a social risk. Notice when your child takes risks and reinforce positive connections by talking to your child about it.  Point out when your child has resistance to attending or participating, and actually ends up having fun and making new friends so. This way you are highlighting that his or her anxiety is not correlating to their good experience.  Your daughter sees that her fears were unfounded.
 
8. Teach introverted children to stand up for themselves. Introverts are often picked on due to their detached and shy nature. That’s why it is especially important to for your child to learn how to speak up and say “no”.
 
9. Avoid “shy” as a descriptor. It’s a word that carries a negative connotation, and a way of dismissing people from interaction. We don’t want our kids to
internalize shy as a fixed trait.
 
10.Make sure your child knows he or she has a voice.  Keep a dialog, ask questions, notice interactions and actively listen to the answers.  It’s so important for kids with this temperament to feel their voice is heard.
 
Parents who have kids with social inhibitions should understand that they may develop unique ways of socializing, and they may have a few close friends rather than a big posse.  So, as they mature, anything we can do to alleviate the pressure on our end will help them be more comfortable in group setting.

Celebrate the other qualities that often go hand-in-hand with introverts: caring, good powers of observation, and wit.  If we give them space, stay engaged, and let them have their experience, our children will find their way.

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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