If you have an introverted child you may have difficulty figuring out the variety of moods or experiences he or she lives every single day. Your child may not even desire to talk about anything related to school, food they enjoy, friends they have and their personal interactions. Naturally, as parents we desire to know if these interactions and experiences are adding value to their lives or if they are taking away from their ability to live their life to the full. What can a parent then do in order to get their introverted child to open up? How can parents gauge the quality of the life they are giving to their children?
Establish emotional and mental intimacy with your child – There are several ways to establish intimacy throughout the day and may seem obvious, yet still require discipline on your behalf. Special note: Always respect your introverted child’s need to not talk. They may not be ready to talk about a subject because they are still thinking it through or may not feel safe.
Have patience. Introverted children need quality time in order to develop the trust they need to open up. Put down the phone and be prepared to get completely present with your child. Plan to give your child the most amount of time possible. Think of the introverted child as strong willed as the extroverted child, with the exception that the thought processes, values, and choices are not always worn on his or her sleeve. This means you really must dig a little, ask questions, wait, and enjoy every little expression coming from your child.
Have patience while hanging out with your child. Patiently listening, communicating, and playing are required for your child’s human experience to unfold and be revealed to you naturally. Introverted children may feel coerced or forced to share intimate details if you ask too many direct questions and demand answers too soon. Wait. Show them you care by reflecting their model of the world (whether you show this by using their language, coming into their play world of make believe, or engaging in their “surface” talk for a time). This will help them feel more comfortable and able to open up more readily. The more patient you are with just “hanging out” with them, the more your intimacy and trust will grow.
Ask open-ended questions about their day and experiences. Many parents make the mistake of asking yes or no questions. For example: Did you learn anything today? This question draws out a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, whereas “What did you learn today?” draws out a topic that the two of you can discuss. Open-ended questions are great conversation starters, “Tell me about…” or “What else?” are great ways to encourage freedom of expression and self-discovery. As your child ponders the question, “What else?” he or she will begin to open her mind to all the possibilities and thoughts that floated in his or her mind through out the day that were significant enough to remember.
Always support, celebrate, and love their differences. Sometimes introverted behavior may come across as unusual, timid, uncertain, or insecure. However, be aware that they may be just as confident, certain, and perfectly logical in their thought processes, and may not express it as thoroughly as you would like them to. Shaming them, embarrassing them, or ignoring them because they are quiet and introverted is the fastest way to hurt their spirit. When in doubt about their moods or abilities, believe the best and go back to asking questions and being patient. It is better to support your child wholeheartedly and love them for every expression they create because in doing so you provide a safe environment time and time again for them to grow and expand into the people they are meant to be.
Investing in your child’s activities, behavior and style of talking by going along with their “flow” is the best way to become more intimate with your introverted child and get them to open up more readily to you. When they begin to share more of their inner world, keep nurturing your relationship, add value to their experiences, and help them define more of the details that are relevant for connecting outside of themselves. Like building a bridge, with every conversation you can connect and reconnect your two different worlds through this type of relating. Remember! Patience, trust, curiosity, support, and celebration of who they are belong to the foundation of connecting with your introverted child.