This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2.
I grew up an only child and until about six months ago I thought I was an introvert. But really, it’s my mother who’s a severe introvert, and my confusion came from how poorly she parented me, her extroverted child. If you’re in the same boat she was, here’s how you can do a better job.
1. Teach your child how to be alone.
I was very lonely. My Mother hated to have people over. She tried to pretend like it didn’t drive her nuts for me to have friends visit, but it did. Being such a strong introvert she felt worn out and drained from her job in customer service.
I would cry because I felt so lonely, but even at school I did not have many friends. Friendships grow outside of school. In school you are busy going from point A to point B, not playing and being friends.
The greatest gift an introvert parent can give an extrovert child is the gift of learning how to be alone. There is a value in being self-contained and self-comforted that only introverts fully understand. Extroverts do not always know how to entertain themselves and they will frequently feel bored, but it’s fine to let them be bored. Being bored forces your brain to grow and learn new things.
2. Help your child maintain one or two close friends.
My mother put me into daycare. She was worried I was not getting socialized enough. I hated it. I hated going to daycare, and later I hated going to school.
What I wanted was to have good friends, and to socially interact with people on my own terms. I did not need groups of people, all shallow relationships, day in and day out. Your extrovert will be the most happy and content if you focus on helping them maintain good friendships.
3. Teach your child how to speak to people in public
My mother hated it when I would speak to people in public. She couldn’t stop me, so she taught me how to be polite and not embarrass her. I can feel charged and energized from chatting with people. I do not always need to have a close friend over. Sometimes just going out and connecting for a few moments is enough.
I have two extroverted children as well. I take them with me and teach them how to speak to people, how to maintain eye contact, and ask good questions. I am most comfortable helping keep a conversation going, learning about that person.
For an extrovert to be happy, they need meaningful friendships—not many, just a few. For them to recharge they need moments of chit chat with other people. They don’t need hours away, locked into large group settings. They don’t need hours of doing an activity. They simply need relationships.