Most people thrive in a wide circle of friends. According to Psychology Today, about 60% of the population is comprised of extroverts —meaning they are energized, rather than depleted, by constant companionship. They likely have a booked social calendar, with plans every Saturday night. They vacation with other families.
But that’s not me: I'm an introvert. I’m much more comfortable going for a run by myself than with friends. I am energized by time spent alone, listening to my thoughts. And I’m totally cool with that.
Yet now that I'm a mother, it's made me consider how my introversion affects my children. With the "trend" of helicopter super-moms, I sometimes worry that my kids are being short-changed by having an introverted mom.
This self-doubt started to occur to me as I watched the teaser for a new Bravo program about aggressive moms raising money for their kids’ school. Unlike these ladies, I squirm in my seat during school functions.
Sure, the women on this show are more like caricatures than real people, but it still got me thinking that my own social tendencies may be holding my kids back. If they had an extroverted mom, would they be more popular or internalize an elevated level of confidence that I'm simply incapable of imparting to them?
The answer's no. I’ve come to realize that while I don’t foresee that I will become the president of my kids’ school PTA or the one organizing the next big block party, introverted parents actually have a lot they can teach their children. Here are three essential lessons:
1. Everyone gets scared of some things, and that's healthy!
I remember being a teen and feeling constantly consumed by a tendency to compare myself to others. Specifically, things always seemed so easy for other people, and I had no idea why my life seemed so hard by contrast. I had no concept that other kids, let alone adults, might have to battle some butterflies in their stomachs.
This lack of awareness was perpetuated a vicious cycle of anxiety: I would get anxious in big groups, and would then get even more anxious that I was the only one who was experiencing discomfort.
Needless to say, most people experience some level of social anxiety. And introverted parents can help their children realize this early on! Talk to your kids about your own experiences in an age appropriate way. Let them know it’s fine to be scared or feel uncomfortable at times and that bravery is defined simply by the choice to move forward anyway. Starting this type of dialogue at a young age can allow kids to communicate their emotions more directly, both to themselves and to others.
2. It’s OK to just be. In fact, it's necessary.
In no way do I take issue with my kids wanting to be social. They love playdates and are constantly excited about hanging out with friends. In fact, I strongly believe that social interactions are an essential part of development (plus, they're just plain fun). She asks this because
But I also think constant stimulation isn’t always so great either. Kids run from school to sports, music, acting, art, language, and sewing classes, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention that they are constantly connected via text, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Introverts naturally seek out solitude, which is quickly becoming a lost form of existence in our hyper-connected world. As introverted parents, we can help equip our kids with the ability to just be, to take in their worlds mindfully and sensitively. Remind them to take the time to breathe and let their thoughts run wild. This gift will help them to develop patience which will sere them well throughout their lives.
3. Friends are valuable, and should be treated as such.
Since accepting my own introverted tendencies, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and have come to appreciate myself more. For one, I've learned that being an introvert means that I choose my friends carefully. I am not "picky" or socially anxious, but selective, and rightfully so.
Specifically, I've learned that it can take years to cultivate friendships in which I really feel at ease. Because once I make a connection, I’m dedicated and trustworthy.
Introverted parents model this value to their children through their actions. Express to your kids that you value their relationships and praise them for being good to their friends.
Regardless of personality type, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert or somewhere in between, parenting is largely about self-acceptance. We all have strength and weaknesses. Teaching your children to own who they are by modeling it will bolster their self-esteem and empower them for a lifetime.