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#1 of 13 Old 10-17-2006, 07:54 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Help, I'm stressing, and I'm sure I don't need to be!!

DD is just turning 3, and like her mama, she's an introvert. She recharges by alone, quiet time. I understand that really well, and I think we have created a good family rhythm to facilitate her having lots of time to rebalance herself - she plays on her own for hours after the two mornings a week she goes to a small home preschool, for example.

What I'm having trouble figuring out is how (or whether) to help her interact with others. She's very uncomfortable in most situations with lots of kids - unless she has a way to retreat on her own or there are toddlers to play with - she's fantastic with babies and toddlers under 18 months or so. Noise and lots of activity seem to overwhelm her quickly, but she is also really interested in "friends" right now - real ones, imaginary ones...

I've been trying to find situations that support her in interacting with kids her age once a week or so (besides preschool, where she largely plays independently). One on one play dates seem incredibly dependent on the personality fit with the other child, and we've had numerous disasters, along with a few successes. She loves "projects", most kids don't stay interested as long as she does, and she doesn't want to run and be loud as much as most kids (especially in public, she's plenty loud at home, LOL) - so a structured activity would probably be easier for her, but I'm resistant to putting my 3 year old in structured activities .

Am I totally overdoing this? I'm introverted enough that making friends is something I have to work at, and I don't know whether I should be supporting her through this process even if it's difficult or just relaxing because she's only 3 and letting her hang out with mama and her imaginary friends at home and worry about social interaction later.

Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. ~Jonathan Kozel
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#2 of 13 Old 10-17-2006, 10:13 PM
 
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Am I totally overdoing this? I'm introverted enough that making friends is something I have to work at, and I don't know whether I should be supporting her through this process even if it's difficult or just relaxing because she's only 3 and letting her hang out with mama and her imaginary friends at home and worry about social interaction later.
I don't think you're overdoing it, but I also don't think you need to worry about it. You can relax and still get her together with other children. My son was just like her at that age. All he cared about was having a special buddy. I just about died when he and his best buddy went to preschool together at age 2 and his buddy looked around on the second day, took off with older, more TV oriented children - and basically never looked back. One day I saw my son go up to that precious friend, look closely in his face and ask "Are you Steven???" He was just so perplexed to see someone who looked just like his friend behaving as if he were a complete stranger. They were still buddies outside of preschool, fortunately. Anyway, as I was just telling someone yesterday, I suffered and worried over all those things far out of proportion to their long-term importance. You can just do your best to help out, but you really need to not let yourself take it too seriously. It will work out just fine. And I'll add I was amazed when I went to visit my son at college last year - all sorts of kids were coming up to me to tell me how much they all love him. I later found out that he was one of the most popular students on campus. My little introvert - the one I worried so much over. You just never know. You just want to support her in being herself, provide plenty of social opportunities all along the way, but not more than she's comfortable with - and it will all work out.

- Lillian
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#3 of 13 Old 10-17-2006, 11:44 PM
 
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Lillian, your posts are so reassuring and inspiring. Wise wise words, mama.

Mamafish, my son (5 3/4) is an introvert (as am I). He has a VERY short list of children he prefers to play with (as in 3 kids): One older (a girl, 9), one younger (a boy 4) and one his own age, a girl whom he's played with since he was a babe and whose mom I'm very close with. He is not comfortable in big groups nor with kids he doesn't know well. VERY occasionally, he'll have a rare day at the park and hook up with a kid and play easily. It's usually a girl, usually older. (And she usually thinks she's playing with another girl because DS has very long hair and soft features, but this is besides the point). For the most part, I try not to sweat this. DS plays independently and we also play together quite a lot and have tons of good family time--all things that nurture attachment and ultimately, maturity.

I'm not sure what your playdate scenario is like. One thing I found early on was that playdates where both of the children's parents are present are very VERY difficult. Lots of tears, anger and frustrations. I started then offering to babysit for a good friend and fellow homeschooler once per week. What a difference it makes to have one parents, focused on both kids. HUGE. I've been doing this going on 3 years now. It's a mutual help to us both. DS has a regular playdate on which to count, and my friend gets some alone time with her DS#2, a few years younger. Because I'm the only parent present, I can focus on the kids, play with them, occasionally provide an activity like baking, tea party, playdough or hide-n-seek, etc., and when they are playing nicely together without me, I can be a fly on the wall and just enjoy the good feeling it is to watch them play. Interestingly, depsite the fact that they gone from 3 to almost 6 years old, they still count on me to be in on the play about as much as when they were younger. I never underestimate just how much a parent can be helpful in child/child relations. I'm especially helpful when I let them take charge and be on the same team together... hide-n-seek is a good one for this and also playing the silly dolt and have them correct me and such. Just get in there and be WITH them, play WITH them, let them take the lead.

Other than that, the older girl, a neighbor comes over a few times per week and DS LOVES her. Maybe a little too much. I've actually had to make sure her visits aren't so frequent that they interfere with our family life (a fellow unschooler which has been very nice but at times, we're a little too convenient, but that's for another thread I need to start ). DS sees his younger buddy once or twice a month--we trade babysitting with his parents who are friends of ours to get some time out together as couples. Despite their age gap, they share similar interests and DS is good with younger kids so it works well.

Moreover? Truly, a little can go a long, long way. And while DS has expressed interest in "friends" I don't think he necessarily means that he needs a ton of them in fact, he's happy with a close few it seems. He's rarely "pining away" for playtime with other kids although he has briefly at times about the neighbor girl with whom I'm certain he has a large crush. Mostly he plays well at home, explores freely and follows his impulses beautifully. If he were unhappy, I'd have to address that, be more proactive I suppose, but when I look at the whole of the situation, all is good.

And never NEVER, underestimate the power (or good time to be had) in spending time with an imaginary friend.

From one introvert to another... You're doing fine, mama!

The best,
Em

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#4 of 13 Old 10-18-2006, 12:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh mamas - I have some whopping pg hormones at the moment, but you made me cry!

Thank you both for such words of wisdom. It's good to know my daughter isn't alone in her nature (in my head I know that, but I never seem to meet those other kids!)...

Em, trying playdates with just one parent sounds like a great idea actually - playing WITH them is harder to do with two parents, and I think I need to separate my socializing from DD's for a while, and just focus on her having a nice play experience.

OK, one introverted mama feeling much saner now, thank you!

Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. ~Jonathan Kozel
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#5 of 13 Old 10-18-2006, 04:28 PM
 
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Mama.

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Originally Posted by mamafish9 View Post
I think I need to separate my socializing from DD's for a while, and just focus on her having a nice play experience.
Yes, this is it. Alternatively, it occured to me that early on I "shared" babysitting with another mom, also a good friend. First, we traded each week for a few hours. She would take the kids one day, once per week for 2 or 3 hours and then I would take them the next. This gave us both some much needed time off when our kids were young. As they got a little older, we traded off twice a week, one morning at my house (say, Monday) and one morning at hers (Wednesday).

They moved away however and that was when I offered to my much stressed other friend that I would be happy to babysit her DD#1 once per week and we've been doing that ever since. You've got another on the way so perhaps the top scenario would be helpful on the long-term. For me, with my only child I don't mind being the only babysitter as my friend with two REALLY needs the break. DS by himself is a piece of cake so, it works. I no longer feel the need to get anymore time off than I already do thanks to DH.

Best of luck! And hang in there. It does get easier!

Em

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#6 of 13 Old 10-18-2006, 04:51 PM
 
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My older dd is introverted as well. She does much better with other kids now that she's older, though. She can even do some louder activities, so long as they are very freeform, and preferably outside.

I think younger introverted kids do well to play a lot with imaginary friends. Imaginary friends are quiet and easy to control. It allows little ones time to master the idea of social situations before they have to face them.
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#7 of 13 Old 10-18-2006, 06:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think younger introverted kids do well to play a lot with imaginary friends. Imaginary friends are quiet and easy to control. .
Oh, how incredibly true, LOL... I love her cast of imaginary friends, and I can see how she uses them to "practice". DH never had any imaginary friends, and he is just fascinated to watch DD in action - I had lots, so I never thought much of it - apparently not everyone has a world of friends in their brain .

Em, I have already set up a couple of playdates (with just me there) with one girl that DD really enjoys playing with - her mom is very excited to get a break, and I think it will actually be easier than when both of us moms are there. Such a great idea, thank you for helping me out of my playdate box!!

Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win. ~Jonathan Kozel
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#8 of 13 Old 10-19-2006, 10:12 PM
 
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thank you for helping me out of my playdate box!!
You're welcome. It was indeed, a HUGE relief for me and very liberating. Happy playing!

Em

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#9 of 13 Old 10-20-2006, 12:01 AM
 
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My DS has a really hard time with crowds and often doesn't get along with kids his own age (esp. other boys...girls about 1-1 1/2 years older seem to be his preferred playmates). We just started a once a week, one hour gymnastics class with our homeschool group and the first 20 minutes of it was a nightmare...I wanted to sit down and cry esp. since none of the other kids were having "issues". He turned a corner shortly after that and the rest of the time was awesome and he had a great time (thank goodness)...but oy...so stressful!

For my DS I have found that the key to not overwhelming him is to try to make sure that we are only springing one "new thing" on him at a time. Also, consistency is soooo important to him (ie. now that we have started gymnastics he *must not* miss a lesson or we will be starting from ground zero again). Finally, keeping the crowds to a minimum as much as possible seems to help too.

It can be really hard sometimes...esp because I feel sad that sometimes people pre-judge him based on his behavior at the start of an activity (which is nearly always his worst face) and he can really be so funny and charming once he warms up to something KWIM?

So no huge advice but know that you are so not alone!

Steph

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#10 of 13 Old 10-22-2006, 12:20 AM
 
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It can be really hard sometimes...esp because I feel sad that sometimes people pre-judge him based on his behavior at the start of an activity (which is nearly always his worst face) and he can really be so funny and charming once he warms up to something KWIM?
I hear this loud and clear. When DS is feeling, shy, uncomfortable, embarrassed or feels put of the spot in any way, he gets this look on his face that I know others judge to be insolent or dismissive. I've learned to read this look and know what's in his heart, but of course, others just see "the face." And when he's relaxed, he can be full of life and funny! *sigh*

The best,
Em

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#11 of 13 Old 10-22-2006, 05:07 AM
 
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For some reason, the mainstream discourse assumes that there is something wrong with being introverted, or that introverts need to be "helped" to become more social. I don't think this is true at all. Being introverted is stressful when you're forced into social situations, but the good news is, at 3, your dd has no need to be in stressful social situations. I would suggest you just go at your dd's pace and not put her in social situations unless she wants to be there, and help her only if she asks for help or if she's obviously struggling. I would let her stay home with you and her imaginary friends and not worry about social interaction now or later. It's greatly overrated IMO.
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#12 of 13 Old 10-22-2006, 10:48 PM
 
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For some reason, the mainstream discourse assumes that there is something wrong with being introverted, or that introverts need to be "helped" to become more social.
So true, mama! At 39 years old, I'm finally no longer apologizing for needing lots of downtime and no longer making excuses to get out of social invites. It's so liberting to just be honest and say, "just wasn't feeling up for it." Whew!

I have allowed DS to set the pace for his social time, and I remember worrying about the lack of social time early on. Of course, compared with his "peers." ACK! And then I read, "Hold On To Your Kids" breathed a huge sigh of relief, and stopped worrying. (And learned some things about myself as well!)

The only issue we've had however, is that DS was occasionally avoiding something he really wanted to do because he wasn't sure of the social climate. It took some observation and gentle questioning on my part, and together we worked to figure out a way for him to attend where he could "ease into" a situation. There is something to be said for not letting social woes interfere with things you'd really like to be doing, and I've seen for myself that DS's confidence is boosted by overcoming social situational stress. He now does not avoid things he wants to do, but he might be likely to ask me to tell him exactly who, what, where and when and then take some time to wrap his mind around it before the event but once there, he does great. Our summer library presentations are great example of this. All of presentations were things DS was very much interested in experiencing: magic show, bug safari, puppet show, but he knew the atmosphere would be one room, lots of wiggly, chatty kids, in the middle of a warm summer. Eek. But we worked through all this beforehand, talked about it, played it, etc., and he had a great time at all three; attentive and enjoyed himself immensely. OTOH, there were tons of kids who clearly couldn't care less about being there, and their parents spent countless energy trying to get them to "pay attention" and "sit still." I couldn't help wondering to myself why they were bothering to attend. I do believe that often just because something is offered, parents feel they NEED to send their child... more societal pressures and furthering the notion that you NEED to socialize your child somehow rather than look into your child for the answers. For sure, there are many upon many social activities that we don't bother with because they simply aren't of interest and this feels a much more natural state than to simply attend because it's there.

Moreover, our approach here really helps on those occasions where DH and I have made a committment on behalf of the family and DS may or may not appreciate having to go. This is incredibly rare, but on the occasion where he has had to attend with us and didn't necessarily want to, we've been able to fall back on those times when we've "eased into" a situation on his behalf and he usually ends up having a great time as well. After he's had time to hang with us, feel shy and observe that is.

Gosh, I'm rambling and fear I've taken this thread way off topic.

The best,
Em

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#13 of 13 Old 10-23-2006, 05:28 PM
 
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I've really enjoyed reading these posts. My dd 5 years and 2 months is pretty introverted as well. She hates crowds and loud chaotic places. I always flip between believing that something is wrong with her or realizing that this is who she is and that's ok. When my dd was three I really pushed the socialization issue. I signed her up for several classes and preschool and arranged playdates with a group of kids. All scenarios ended up in disaster. I wish I had listened to the things that have been said in these posts. I realize that pushing the issue made things really bad for my dd and me. The more I pushed the more anxious she felt. The more she rejected the more embarrassed I felt that my kid wasn't like everyone elses. This year I have decided I will not put her in any class she does not want to be in(sort of a nobrainer, I know). I try not to schedule things too much. I try to plan only one outing a day. I like to give her lots of down time to read stories, draw, play computer games etc. If we have a busy day the next day will be a quieter day. I think things feel better in our house. If I'm worried about dd I just watch to see if laughs at any point of the day. To me success is her happiness and that she experiences joy in her life. Oops another long rambling thread. I hope it made sense.
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