Sunday, 10 November 2013

How Do I Know If My Child is Introverted?

What are Introverts?
Some kids can be a bit of a mystery to their parents. In my counseling practice I come across parents who simply do not 'get' one of their children, that he/she 'pushes my buttons'. In many cases it's proven to be that the child is like the other parent.

An important thing to perhaps realise is whether your child is introverted or extroverted. Simply put - extroverts feel energised by being around people, introverts feel drained by being around people. Both groups enjoy the company of others, it's just that for introverts, social interactions are taxing and require periods of solitude to recharge. A fantastic cartoon version of this which illustrates it perfectly, can be found here

Is my kid a Sheldon Cooper?
TV's The Big Bang Theory has done much, I think, to help the general public understand how introverts (and highly intelligent introverts) think, but the show does stereotype them a little. Not all brilliant scientists are like Dr Sheldon Cooper, who is clearly on the Autistic Spectrum. And not all introverts have trouble finding a life partner either. But I do have to laugh at the rigidity of the characters' social lives and their childlike fascination with comic book superheroes! If your child is on the spectrum, perhaps some Asperger's Traits, (and I'll blog about that another time) you will by now have noticed inflexibility in his/her thinking that often leads to arguments.
For introverted children the challenge becomes how to manage social interactions and quiet times to recharge. It's a delicate balance and the strain will often manifest in behaviours which can be puzzling for parents - screaming, slamming doors, crying, holding their head, blowing up over some minor issue, shouting 'Leave me ALONE!' - that kind of thing. It's essential that an introverted child be allowed to be thus. They cannot 'learn' to become more extroverted. It's just not how they are made. According to studies, introverts make up approximately 25% of the general population, which explains why the majority of people (extroverts), have trouble understanding them!

Introversion is Normal
In her excellent book, The Introvert Advantage - How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, Marti Olsen Laney describes the physical differences in the introvert and extrovert brains and how each gains 'happy hits' quite differently. This is a fantastic resource for parents, as well as adults, as it explains behaviour patterns, ways of thinking and how to survive, whether you are an introverted parent with an extroverted child or an extrovert with an introvert partner etc. Laney debunks common myths and misconceptions about introverts - that they hate people and never want to come out of their 'bunkers'; that they are somehow dysfunctional and weird. It's true, we introverts have a bubble around us, for protection, and we like to choose who comes into that sacred space. But it's not because we don't like people, or that we disapprove of people, it's a matter of energy. Laney backs up her theories with solid scientific evidence, including brains scans and long term studies. The diagrams are easy to understand and the explanations make so much sense.
You can purchase this book online here

So, if your child or partner's behaviour is puzzling, perhaps this will help you determine why and give you some ideas to handle the relationship better.

cheers, Dawn