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Ask anyone with experience and they will tell you that being an introvert can be both a blessing and a curse. While introverts may struggle with the challenges of living in a largely extroverted world, they are also likely to experience a depth of sensitivity and feeling that their more outgoing counterparts may never experience.
However, when you are an introverted parent raising an introverted child, both the rewards and the obstacles are amplified. The good news is that parents and children who are introverted can learn a great deal from one another, and that can lead to a happier, healthier, and more serene life for both.
What It Means to be An Introvert
There is much to recommend the introverted personality type. It gives introverts a lot of beautiful gifts that many of us can only envy. Introverts are deeply thoughtful, insightful, and sensitive. They are also highly self-sufficient. They don’t need the constant companionship of others to make it through the day. In fact, constant companionship is, by definition, the worst thing for introverts, who need ample alone time to think, rest, and emotionally re-charge.
And this, fundamentally, is why the benefits of the personality type can also be a detriment. Studies show, for instance, that as much as 75% of the population can be categorized as extroverts. Because such an overwhelming majority of people belong to this personality type, the characteristics associated with extroversion have come not only to be highly valued in our society but also to be considered “the norm.”
This normalization of extroversion can take quite a toll on introverted parents and their children. Extroverted peers and family members alike may not understand and may even unfairly judge the introvert’s quiet nature and need for solitude. Even more troubling, introverted persons may misunderstand and judge themselves, feeling as if they are trying to survive in a world where they just don’t fit in.
The Psychological Toll
Because introverts may feel as is if they simply don’t belong, it’s not uncommon for them to experience mental health effects, including depression and anxiety. For instance, adults and children alike may find themselves trying to deny their natural inclination to quiet and solitude to try to fit in and be more like those around them.
And that can lead them to overcompensate, their anxiety to belong driving them to overwork, over-schedule, and over-socialize. Eventually, though, the effort can become overwhelming. Without proper care, such as the use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), anxiety and depression can take over, resulting in panic attacks, physical illness, withdrawal from friends and family, and myriad mental, emotional, and physical harms.
The Good News
Though the challenges of being an introvert may be significant, the opportunities are even more so, particularly when it comes to the relationship between an introverted parent and their introverted child.
Introverted children who are being raised by introverted parents may well be at a significant advantage. Because most people are extroverts, the majority of introverted children find themselves paired with extroverted parents, who may not quite understand the child’s needs or the anxiety that may result when the drive for solitude is not met. An introverted parent, on the other hand, can empathize with and anticipate those needs like no other.
Nevertheless, being an introverted parent with an introverted child presents its own unique difficulties. Like their little one, the parent, too, will need substantial alone time to re-center themselves and replenish their energy. But introverted parents may struggle with feelings of guilt and shame when the chaos of the day overwhelms, and they find themselves withdrawing, retreating into themselves.
This, however, can be one of the most important ways in which parents and children who are introverted can learn from one another. More specifically, parents must model for their introverted children ways to care for themselves, including setting personal boundaries and protecting their needed space and solitude. without apology or excuse.
One great strategy for modeling this behavior is to establish a bedtime ritual that parents and children alike can follow. Because anxiety can cause introverted people to over-schedule, many may experience significant sleep deprivation, especially if that anxiety is also accompanied by excessive worry and insomnia, which is so often the case. Sleep deprivation can, in turn, lead to additional mental health challenges, including depression.
But establishing a consistent bedtime ritual for you and your child, one that meets your specific needs, will ensure that you both get the physical and mental rest that you need. And, at the same time, it will validate, affirm, and honor your and your child’s unique needs as introverts.
So, it’s important to begin by calculating the number of hours of sleep each of you will need every night. Then, focus on crafting a pre-sleep ritual that helps you and your little one relax, decompress, and restore your calm. This might include a quiet bath and bedtime story or quiet reading time, along with shutting off the electronics and turning away visits and phone calls in the hours before bedtime.
The introverted personality type has many rare and beautiful attributes. And when introverted parents are raising introverted children, there are powerful life lessons that may be learned. Among the most significant of these, perhaps, are how to practice self-care, how to embrace your individual needs, and how to celebrate your uniqueness.
Are you and your children of the same temperament? How do you set boundaries with your children?
This is a guest post from Luke Smith. Luke is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but relationship topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.