Did you ever worry about your child being quiet? Wondering if (s)he is social enough, has enough friends, is well liked etc.? If you did, you’re not alone. Many parents worry about their child not living up to the expectations of our extroverted society. Especially when parents are extroverts themselves, they may be wondering what’s wrong and think (s)he is shy or maybe even depressed. Well, there’s a good chance nothing is wrong. Your child may just be introverted.

Even I, an introvert myself, stepped into the same pitfall. I was worried about my daughter being shy. Wondering if she had enough friends, was well liked and enjoying herself. Because I was very shy as a child, I really wanted to prevent her from going through that same ordeal. Even though all of her teachers the past couple of years told us she was doing great, was social and played with a lot of different kids, I kept worrying about it. Until I recently read “Quiet, the powers of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain and realized that she was just being her beautiful introverted self and I was projecting my own fears onto her.

Although from the outside introversion and shyness may appear to be the same, there is a substantial difference. Shyness is based on fear, being afraid of what others will think. An extrovert can be shy and show the same behavior as an introvert that isn’t. They’re both quiet, but for a different reason. Introversion means that a person is more focused toward the inside. Introverted people don’t (necessarily) dislike people. But, where extroverted people gain energy from their interaction with others, introverts get drained. For example, no matter how much my daughter likes to go to school, when she gets home, she needs quiet time. She will curl up in a corner of the couch and read. If I ask too many questions, she will get cranky. She likes school, but it also takes a lot of her energy and she needs time alone to refuel.

Introverted kids are often daydreamers and thinkers. They like to observe and think about things. Whereas extroverted children dive into a party or playground to go play right away, introverted kids will first observe. They like to take things in before they join and usually have a preference for other quieter kids. And it’s not that they don’t talk, they just like to get to know someone first.

If you’re an extrovert and not sure how to handle your introverted child, then maybe this will help.

Accept that they are quiet. As long as they have a few good friends and they are happy, its ok. Not everybody needs loads of friends. If you’re not sure, ask your child’s teacher (at school and/or sports) how they are doing. Just make sure they are not afraid to speak their mind. It’s ok to be quiet, but they do have to be able to stand up for themselves.

Respect their need for privacy and downtime. Quiet time is essential for them to recharge, if they don’t, they’ll get overloaded and breakdown. Schedule downtime between activities.

As I said before, they are thinkers. They need to process events and like to think things through and rehearse their response, so give them some time. They don’t talk very easily. If you want to know what’s going on inside of them, try going on a walk or do something else that is relaxed enough to talk, but doesn’t put your focus on your child.