Parenting a teenager is already hard enough. It becomes even more challenging when their personality is different from the norm. Our society favors extrovert traits. From everything from advertising, the political sector, to classroom settings, and work environments extroverts have the advantage. In the classroom, group projects are common as well as speaking out loud in front of the class for grades. The same goes for the work environment. Group meetings are commonplace and those that speak up get the floor over those that take time to think things over quietly by themselves. Cubicles are seen to be the norm for many fields which promote constant collaboration over individual introspection.
It’s crucial that as a parent you learn how to parent your introverted teenager effectively by taking the following steps.
Learn about introversion
I previously wrote an article discussing what introversion is and what the common personality traits here. You can read this article here. Don’t just stop there, continue doing research and it will pay off in the end. You’ll understand what makes your teen tick and why they tend to respond the way they do. You will be less likely to see their behavior as abnormal and fear for depression. It’s common for parents to confuse their child’s normal behavior as a sign of depression. That’s not to say that they aren’t depressed. Since introversion is a personality trait they way they respond will not change based on fluctuations in the situation. Whereas depression is a marked change in behavior.
For example, if your child is normally outgoing and extremely social then any isolating behavior is a sign for concern as that is not typical behavior. An introverted teen would already be less social and be by themselves in their room even when nothing particularly stressful has happened. If they start to display extreme changes in their behavior or stop doing things they used to enjoy, then that is a sign for concern as well. If you aren’t sure, it won’t hurt to get a professional evaluation for your child.
Introverts naturally need time alone to recharge. Social interactions, especially with strangers, drain mental energy which is why your introvert may start to disengage, get really quiet, and even become irritable after long periods of social activity. Parents may interpret this as a disrespectful behavior and a sign of rejection, when really they need time alone to “recharge”. In families with lots of younger children, it is helpful for your introvert to have the ability to be alone when they need to recharge as they may tolerate less stimulation.
Talk to your child about what you learn
After you’ve done some reading about introversion and the common traits, talk to your teen about it. This is helpful because it creates conversation around it and decreases any negative stigma your child might have felt. Unfortunately this society favors extroverts and so many introverts feel like there is something wrong with them for not conforming so easily. It’s important to understand what introversion looks like for your teen in particular. Personality traits lie on a spectrum and so your child will be able to tell you where they lie on that continuum.
As a parent, it’s understandable to worry that there might be something wrong with your teenager since they aren’t conforming to what is viewed as “normal”. Now that you’ve learned about introversion and talked to your teen about it, the last thing is to accept them for who they are. Understand that they aren’t “weird” or “broken”.They in fact are normal. Introversion isn’t something they will grow out of. Instead encourage them to listen to their bodies when it’s telling them they need to recharge for self-care. You can also help them harness their strengths such as their ability for thoughtful in their decision-making and their excellent listening skills. Remind them that introverts and extroverts compliment each other.