Introverted Children in Extroverted Schools
About the book: The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World
by Marti Olsen Laney
Entering into the swing of a new school year overwhelms one in three children who are introverted. Schools are designed to educate the extroverted majority. They are fast paced, demanding quick thinking and snappy answers, group brainstorming, adapting to constant change and the ability to compete. Extroverts succeed in this environment while introverts thrive in just the opposite atmosphere. A thoughtful, individual and reflective approach to learning brings out the best in introverts. This is why there are more significant negative consequences for introverted school children than parents typically think. Introverted children are trying to gear up to match a pace that is draining and overwhelming for them.
"All brains aren't the same," says Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, who has researched the physiology of introverts. "I wondered why introverts and extroverts are so obviously different. New research and technology provides us with the answer. The brains and nervous systems of introverts and extroverts are hard wired to process the world and restore energy in different ways."
In her book, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, Laney explains, "Introverts require the type of slower paced surroundings that are quickly disappearing. Introverts focus on their lively interior worlds where they are energized by thoughts, ideas, and perceptions. They need to understand the world before they experience it, which means a lot of their activity is mental, requiring an atmosphere of peace and quiet. Few schools meet the needs of introverts."
Parents can help their child adapt and cope outside of their comfort zone by discussing ways to ease into a new grade. Talk to your child about the advantages of their introverted temperament. Explain that they need to take small steps when they enter into new situations. Emphasize that this is for a good reason. They have very active minds that require more introspection than schools typically provide. Remind your child that they can manage. They became comfortable the year before and that they will again this year. Tell them that the uneasy feelings will disappear as they become more familiar with the new teacher, classmates and schoolroom.
Don't push or rush an introverted child, it will make matters worse. Model a relaxed and prepared attitude. Get school supplies ready the night before and give yourselves plenty of time in the morning. Stress is hard on introverted children and they can have meltdowns. Help them learn how to maintain a measured pace. Teach them to take breaks by finding a quiet place to spend a few minutes to restore their batteries. If they are asked, many introverted children have ideas about how to help themselves.
Talk to your child's teacher about a couple of the most misunderstood aspects of introverted temperaments. Explain that it may take a while for your child to warm up in groups. However, in one-on-one conversations introverts can be quite talkative. Make clear that eye contact when speaking may be difficult for your child, not because of low self-esteem, but because they are trying to reduce internal stimulation when speaking. Introverts increase eye contact when listening. It is also helpful to explain that introverts process information at a slower pace than extroverts do but usually remember it longer and better. An introverted child is more knowledgeable than they can demonstrate when suddenly called upon or pressured to participate in class.
Your child needs down time after school to recharge their batteries so don't expect them to talk about their day for a while. Don't over schedule them with after school activities. Take a few minutes after your child decompresses from the day and ask them if they are ready to discuss school. If they are recharged enough to talk, help them problem solve any difficulties.
Laney reassures parents, "Parents can have a powerful influence on introverted children growing up in a society that overvalues extroverts. Parents can help their child use their innate advantages such as observational skills, concentration and problem solving to transition into a new grade. If their parents recognize and value these qualities, their introverted children will develop confidence for an extroverted world. Introverted children, many of whom are intellectually gifted, have bright futures. They continue to bloom as they grow."
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