Understanding and Nurturing an Introverted Teen

Posted by Mpho Ashworth on July 22, 2015

Loner, outsider, aloof, lone wolf, stand-offish are just some of the negative words often used to described introverts. Having to contend with always being in the shadow of their much more celebrated and socially accepted extroverted peers can be too much for the introverted teen. Introverts are said to form only 25% of the population, which must go some way to explaining why they are so often misunderstood and viewed in a negative light.
 
Some Myths About Introverts

Introverts are shy. People often think that just because they are not the life and soul of the party, they are not very talkative, don't like being around people and are shy. This could be in part because they prefer to engage in solitary activities such as reading, writing and daydreaming.

Introverts just happen to be stimulated more by activities such as problem solving and introspection. It may very well be true that some introverts are shy and anti-social. But that's just a coincidence that happens to reinforce the myth that all introverts are like that.  

Introverts hate conversing. It's true that most introverts are not big on small talk, but they do actually like to converse! They much prefer deep discussions and subject matter that interests them. You only have to engage them in a discussion that interests them and you won't be able to stop them chewing your ear off! They relish a good debate.

Introverts generally see small talk as a waste of time. Sadly, this perpetuates the idea that introverts are arrogant.

There is something wrong with them. Just because they're different, some extroverts are quick to dismiss them as odd, weird or even rude. This stems from people not understanding them, not listening to them, talking at them and not making an effort to really understand them.
 
Introverts don't like to socialize. Wrong! Contrary to popular belief, they do like to attend parties and socialize. They just go about it in a different way than extroverts. They don't like to be around people for too long. Once they've had their fill of socializing, they like to spend time on their own and introspect.
 
Introverts are rude. They tend to call a spade a spade, and are less likely to sugarcoat things for the sake of social pleasantries. They are generally blunt to a fault, and as we all know, the truth hurts. If people don't want to hear something, no matter how true, there's the tendency is to say it's rude. Society frowns on this and can pile pressure on introverts, especially the younger, impressionable ones, to conform and try to fit in.

Nurturing The Introverted Teen
 
Do not smother them. Give them their space, because they like their solitary time, after being around people for a short time. They use their alone time to 're-charge' and introspect. Avoid rebuking them in public. Introverts hate being in the spotlight, as it means being scrutinized. If you have to tell them off, do it in private. They are eager to please their parents and teachers, so it's very important to appreciate and nurture their sensitive side.
 
Don't push them into social settings. Introverts are naturally unsure and hesitant about new places and people. For this reason, they are happier with one or two good friends. They are even known to start dating a little later.
 
Avoid forcing them to open up before they are ready. They are not very good at vocalizing how they feel. So you need to observe them and learn to 'read' them. They tend to bottle things up and take time to discuss them. Allow them to take their time, and try to understand their actions through their emotions. Watch for sudden changes in behavior, but avoid pushing them to open up and discuss things immediately. Doing so may very well lead to them clamming up altogether.
 
Talk to their teacher about their introversion. This will help them understand your child better.  You don't want them to mistake their being introverted or their not speaking much in class for disinterest or a lack of attention. Introverts are actually very attentive but most prefer to listen and observe, as opposed to actively taking part. Their teacher knowing about their introversion will help them support them as they interact with friends, participate in teamwork and class presentations.
 
Ease them into new situations and people slowly. They can feel overwhelmed by new places and people. They like to know in advance what's going on. Tell them who they're meeting, what to expect to happen, how they're likely to feel and maybe even suggest what they could say to strike up a conversation. The trick is to ease them slowly into any new situations and people, instead of thrusting them into the deep end.
 
Raising children is hard at the best of times, but raising an introverted child can present more of a challenge. However, it doesn't have to be. Experts recommend for parents and adults around these children to take their time to understand them and stop pushing them to be something they are not, to conform in order to fit in with society's ideal of what it means to be an acceptable human being. Instead, experts suggest strongly that they help them make the most of their strengths and understand that there's nothing wrong with them.