Beginning school for introverts can be a daunting experience. Where extroverts draw their energy from interacting with others, introverts recharge from quiet and self-directed activities. Many classroom activities are built through interaction, which can be draining for introverts without supports in place.
Additionally, large group interactions such as lunch and recess can exist as a minefield. So how can parents help introverts, especially younger ones, successfully navigate the school day? Here are six great tips.
1. Role Play Likely Situations
Prior to the day, try role playing likely situations. Many people mistakes introverts for being shy, and the two traits are not the same. Mimic participating in a large group to help your child voice their ideas or otherwise contribute. Some introverts can find drawing attention to themselves, even raising hands, difficult. Simply practicing small gestures can help your student more actively participate in the classroom. Additionally, practicing simple requests such as "Can I sit here?" or "Want to play tag?" can make all the difference during lunch and recess.
2. Create Confidence Builders
Outside of school, try to find confidence builders. We tried multiple activities until finding several our child both enjoyed and excelled in. Large team sports such as soccer were out, but she enjoyed swim team and Daisies, with a troop limited to 12 girls. Tennis is a favorite as well, as it focuses on individual practice and effort while providing the ability to be part of a group. These activities offered her the opportunity to participate and gradually adopt skills that come naturally to extroverts.
Related: Parenting a Sensitive Child
3. Alert the Teacher
During our Meet and Greet, I bring a letter for her teacher highlighting her interests and best practices. For instance, our student is bright, but feels embarrassed when called on; she needs a few seconds of wait time to gather her courage and answer the question. Sharing her interests allows the teacher to create positive participation experiences that encourage her to feel more comfortable contributing in class.
4. Host a Meet and Greet with Classmates
Large, boisterous parties can cause introverts to withdrawal. Over the school year, I host several smaller playdates with classmates. Limited to 2-4 friends, the playdate involves both unstructured play and a quiet activity such as coloring or a craft to allow for recharging. Introverts enjoy being social, and scaling down the scope can help tremendously.
5. Have a Recharge Strategy
It's important to talk with your student and the teacher about a recharge strategy. It could be as simple as going to the reading nook and perusing a book for a few minutes during free time. While other students love boisterous play, our child prefers to sit and color. After a highly interactive activity, your student may need some time to re-center and recharge. Work with the teacher to brainstorm appropriate activities and ensure that your child knows the options. Additionally, at the end of the school day, introverts often need space to process and decompress; avoid peppering questions until they've had time to unwind and recharge.
Related: How to Raise Children Who Love to Learn
6. Encourage Them to Use Their Voice
Speaking up and drawing attention to oneself may be a challenging task for introverts. Simply practicing using their voice can be helpful! Singing loudly, yelling the alphabet, anything to practice being comfortable with speaking up translates to being heard better in the classroom. Pose open-ended questions to practice discussion opportunities.
Introverts can love school as much as extroverts, but it may take a longer adjustment period initially. Work with your student to recognize when he or she feels drained so they can take the opportunity to recharge when available. Work with the teacher to establish appropriate opportunities to recharge throughout the day as well. Regularly practicing extroverted skills can be a huge help in experiencing success in their academic setting.