Help your child see what a gift this character trait really is!
As an avowed, life-long extrovert, having a shy child isn’t something I was prepared to deal with. And for a while, it wasn’t a problem. My oldest, Sienna, is a natural extrovert who’s always made friends anywhere, anytime. But my second child, Charlotte, is much more introverted.
It isn’t that she doesn’t want to make friends — she does. But she’s a dreamer, always carrying a book in her hand, and she lives a highly imaginative life. This makes friendship harder particularly right now in the tween years, with most of the other 10- and 11-year-olds making the transition to curiosity about hair, makeup, heels, and all the stuff that captivates the junior-high girls they look up to. So the struggle to find friends is more real this year than it’s ever been.
If you have a kid like Charlotte, or a child who struggles socially, here are a few things that may be helpful …
1Talk to his/her teacher
Last year, Charlotte’s precious teacher actually came to me with reports of which girls she got along with the best. It was invaluable information, helping me talk with her about forming intentional friendships with girls beyond the limited circle I knew — mostly younger siblings of Sienna’s friends.
This year she’s not in the same class with many of those girls, but I’ve been relying on that same information to help facilitate after-school study sessions and weekend sleepovers. It’s been so much more helpful than my own attempts to blindly guide her toward friendships with girls she doesn’t share similar interests with, so I encourage you to seek out the teachers or mentors who see your child in social settings on a daily basis and get their input when trying to help your own child.
2Foster intentional friendships
Most friendships this age spring up by proximity. Kids in the same classes or activities gravitate toward each other not necessarily out of a sense of camaraderie, but of proximity. For extroverts, this isn’t really a problem; I can speak from experience that extroverts have little trouble forming friendships with people who share little in common. But introverted children are different. They can be intimidated by different interests, or they can simply be uninterested and disengaged in pursuits that don’t spark their curiosity. Neither of these reactions is wrong, which is why it’s imperative for parents to help their introverted children foster intentional friendships. Making a space for social time outside of school is one way to ease the academic and peer pressure so that kids have a chance to get to know each other apart from circumstances, and to build relationships that don’t depend on them.
3Emphasize quality over quanitity
Introverted kids usually grow into introverted adults — which is a good thing! A world full of extroverts would be a loud, chaotic one with few deep, meaningful friendships. Point out to your introverted child that a few good friends are worth more than tons of casual friends by explaining the difference between circumstantial friendships and intentional friendships. Find some Bible verses that talk about the worth of a good friend, and help your introverted child see that being introverted is actually a gift that can lead to a rich and meaningful life.
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