‘I’m Beginning To Worry About Her Introversion’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than ten years of experience as a clinical psychologist to answer your questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Keeps To Herself: I’m mother to a 5-year-old daughter who loves to read, but I feel it’s making her an introvert. Her teachers point out she is generally quite shy in school as well, and prefers the company of only one or two children. She also gets tired and irritable when she is surrounded by too many people. Both my husband and I are extroverts with active social lives, and I’m beginning to worry about her introversion. What do you suggest I do about this?
Sonali: Let me assure you that introversion can be a huge strength. Introverted children often become good listeners and deeply contemplative, creative, and sensitive leaders. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates and Emma Watson are all very successful introverts.
Usually introverted children prefer being alone or with one or two friends. They actually like it that way, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they are shy. Try to avoid labels like ‘introvert’ and ‘shy’ and avoid trying to turn her in to an extrovert. These actions might be well meant, but they can break a child’s self-esteem. As parents, one must create a conducive environment where introverted children can thrive. It would be a good idea to speak to your daughter’s teacher, so that the teacher is sensitive to her needs as well and can encourage her every time she makes an attempt to participate and voice her opinions.
As extroverted individuals, I understand your concern, but you should accept that your child is different from you in a beautiful way. You may often feel energized after meeting people and having conversations, but your daughter’s innate temperament works differently. She may benefit from downtime, particularly after returning from school, a party, or other social activities. Engaging in solitary activities such as reading, painting or even pretend play can help her feel re-energized.
As Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet says, “Don’t just accept your child for who she is; treasure her for who she is.”
Guilty Mom: My husband and I have full-time jobs, which means that our 3-year-old son often spends his time at daycare. However, I feel so guilty about not spending time with him that I don’t even go to the salon or meet friends or even go out for a movie whenever I have some time off work. I feel it’s making me an angry and irritable person, but I also feel like I will be a bad mother if I don’t spend all the time I have with my son. Do you think I’m on the right track? I feel very confused.
Sonali: I can understand the guilt that working mothers feel about not being able to spend as much time as they would like with their children. Here’s the good news, though: Quality time that you spend with your child, complemented by your attentive presence and listening, can do wonders for your child’s emotional development. However, research does show that parents’ guilt and work-related stress negatively influences parenting and can often rub off on children. You need a balance.
Providing our children with a sense of warmth, affection, healthy attachment and unconditional love is what facilitates growth. I suggest that when you are with your son, you tune in solely to his needs. Be attentive, not just physically present, which means choosing not to check your phone constantly and not to get distracted by work and other commitments. It works wonders to sit down and play with your son’s toys the way he wants to play and infuse it with humor. Building personal rituals such as reading to him every day, giving him a bath, spending time listening to his stories also helps.
Sometimes, we can be our own harshest critics, and learning to dispute our personal expectation of being a Superwoman is important.
We also constantly hear voices that make a lot of us feel like we love our professional success more than our children. The reality is sometimes, we love both of them. Doing what you like professionally makes you a happy person and, hence, a happy mother.
Self-care goes a long way in contributing to our mental health. Taking care of our own needs nourishes and rejuvenates us. As a parent, finding a balance between Me Time, Couple Time and Family Time is crucial. It helps to go on a date night with your spouse to strengthen your marital bond, or meet friends with whom you can talk and laugh openly. We need to learn to be kind to ourselves, as mothers. Ignoring our own psychological needs can lead to frustration and unhappiness (for more, see my article on the importance of self-care).
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