Introversion vs. extroversion in children is a hot topic right now. How do you know if your child is an introvert or just shy? What are the signs? How do you help them at home and at school? These are all questions that Christine Fonseca, educational psychologist and critically acclaimed nonfiction & young adult author as well as an introvert answers in her new book called, Quiet Kids.
The chapters in Quiet Kids include real-world stories from Fonseca’s focus groups, describing the ups and downs and challenges many parents and educators face with introverted children. Chapters also provide tip sheets, checklists, and Q&As so parents can easily act on Fonseca’s insights, helping their kids feel comfortable in their introverted skin before they enter the adult world.
Christine sat down recently with Examiner.com for a Q&A to answer some of these questions. Please see below. Hope it's helpful to you or someone you know.
- How do you know if you have an introverted child? What does introversion look like at every age: toddler, elementary, tweens, and teens?
Introversion relates to how people interact with the world, how they process energy. Recent research has demonstrated a neurological connection with temperament. Introverts literally prefer different neurotransmitter activation, utilizing their parasympathetic nervous system more than their extroverted counterparts. Introverts typically withdraw from loud, chaotic settings, preferring quiet and solitude.
Introversion is something that can be seen at birth. Many introverted babies are highly agitated by loud sounds or visual stimulation. As toddlers, introverted children may appear shy and withdrawn. They may even appear to avoid social contact. During the early childhood years (elementary school), they will often appear reluctant in school, may be anxious when routines are not in place, and may continue to be socially withdrawn. As introverted children age, the quietness may continue, except when they are in small groups. They may prefer reading to going out with friends, have only one or two peers they refer to as friends, and show a preference for quiet activities.
- What are the differences between introversion and shyness?
Shyness and introversion are frequently confused. In fact, look up introversion in the dictionary and you will likely find the word shy. In truth, introversion and shyness are quite different. As I mentioned above, introversion is a temperament, rooted in biology. It refers to a specific way of interacting with the world. It is not substantially changed throughout your lifetime. Shyness, on the other hand, is a behavior and as such can be changed. For example, I am an introvert. I hate crowds, need “downtime” and require solitude to renew. When I was younger, I was also very shy. I panicked whenever I had to speak to large groups or perform. I worked on the shyness, becoming more comfortable with performing and public speaking. In fact, I would say I am really not at all shy anymore. I can speak in front of very large groups with little difficulty. That said, I am still an introvert. I still require solitude after prolonged periods of social engagement. I still prefer to be alone to renew. This will not change. It is how I’m hardwired.
- Can you provide a few tactics for parents to help their children at home, school and play?
Introverted children thrive in predictable environments. Routines around bedtime, homework time, and school help introverted children know what to expect and plan accordingly. Parents can help their introverted children by assisting with routines, enabling their children to create calm and predictable environments that build on some of the strengths of introversion.
Another way parents can help introverted children succeed is by teaching a few survival extroversion skills, including initiating conversations with peers and adults, self-advocacy skills, and building tolerance for social activities.
Finally, providing opportunities for solitude and quiet are another sure fire way parents can help their introverted children. This is particularly true after school or after a fun day in a social venue, like an amusement park or the mall.
- What are a few tips for teachers with both introverted and extroverted students in their classrooms?
Classrooms are challenging places for introverted children. Typically the minority, introverted children are often required to participate in group activities, collaborate with extroverted peers, and spend six hours in highly social situations. Teachers can help balance the social demands for the introvert, and still meet the engagement needs of the extrovert, through balanced teaching and a balanced environment . Switch from group to individual activities. Allow both for collaboration and individual work. Enable extroverts to study a greater breadth of content, while allowing introverts to focus on depth. Provide a place for introverts to go if they find recess and lunch difficult. All of these strategies will help balance the classroom for all learners.
- It says in the press release that you argue it’s okay for introverted kids to have only a few friends, and to spend more time on the computer, on a tablet or cell phone. Can you explain why?
We live in a digital age, something that is exciting for many introverts. Using technology, many introverts have found comfort in social engagement, perhaps for the first time. The computer/cell phone/tablet offers a barrier to the normal frenetic energy many introverts struggle with, enabling the introverts to engage without feeling drained. For the first time, many of these introverts can develop friendships, collaborate freely, and extend themselves in ways previously impossible.
While this is all good for the introvert, it is important to remember that introverts, no matter how social they become online, still require downtime, away from the computer. They still need solitude and a break from the noise – even digital noise. It’s important for parents to help them find a balance between the new social frontier open to introverts online, and their basic need for quiet and solitude.