Were you always the belle of the ball? Perhaps you were the school’s star football player. Enthusiastic and gregarious, you gravitated to all things social and couldn’t wait for the next school function. Now with your own children, you looked forward to seeing them involved and having those same experiences.
But your daughter won’t go through the door of the dance and your son would rather read a book than sack the quarterback.
As parents, we naturally assume our children will be just like us. But what happens when your personality is at odds with your child’s, especially when they hit the tween years, which bring their own challenges?
That delicate 10- to 12-year-old age range is a time of many social, hormonal and academic changes. Boys and girls discover each other, dances and other events abound, plus the rigors of school and homework increase. The quiet and introverted tween can struggle.
And parents whose natural inclination is to be at the center of everything may find it difficult to deal with their child’s very different world. However, with an open mind and some strategies, extroverted parents can positively nurture their introverted children.
Know your differences. They’re real. Sometimes the biggest barrier can be a parent’s failure to recognize that fact.
Maybe your toddler never warmed up to people or your kindergartner didn’t like group play. Was your third-grader’s entire year of recess spent alone picking up rocks?
Shy children often come out of their shells as they mature. Others may not. The important thing is to be mindful of your opposite personality traits.
“The need to adjust to different temperaments is challenging but quite common,” says Jennifer Stein, a licensed clinical psychologist with Comprehensive Psychological Services in Arlington Heights. “When parent and child temperaments differ, it’s important for parents to be attuned to their child’s natural pace and rhythms.”
“It is important to work with your child to figure out their worries and anxieties,” says Dr. Carrie Gottainer, a licensed clinical psychologist, also with Comprehensive Psychological Services.
It’s also important for extroverted parents to put themselves in their introverted child’s shoes. Don’t let your love of the limelight blind you to what’s happening in their world.
Who hasn’t been persuaded by their parents to do something they didn’t want to do, only to have a great time in the end? Anticipatory anxiety can get the best of anyone, especially an introverted tween. Not knowing what to expect can be fearful, uncomfortable and lead to staunch refusals to participate.
Enter the “nudge.” “C’mon honey, give (insert activity here) a chance, it could be lots of fun.”
Nothing is more satisfying than your child coming home saying he had the best time and is happy he went. A little push out of the nest can work wonders.
Don’t push too hard
But experts warn not to let push come to shove. Testing waters outside one’s comfort zone and getting thrown into the deep end are two different things. Children can be pushed into something they’re not ready for, even by the most well-intentioned parents.
“If your child is letting you know they’re not ready, talk with your child to try and figure out what they are worried about,” Gottainer says. “Help your child ease into social situations by providing skills and giving them information and support.”
It’s a strategy that is successful for Rolling Meadows dad Joe Dilillo and his 11-year-old son, Dominic. Dilillo is a successful, outgoing music producer and easily gravitates toward people. However, he admits, “changing gears can be tough for Dominic, at times, and we make it a practice to go over things and expectations regarding a variety of situations and events. Knowing things in advance empowers Dominic, helps make for smooth transitions, and is a confidence builder. “
Respect the baby steps
Confidence is tied to one’s comfort zone and varies based on personality. As an extrovert, your natural inclination may be to work a crowded room like a Chicago politician. Conversely, one single step might be a giant leap to your cautious child.
Moving forward is the key, no matter how sluggish it seems to you as an extrovert. Slow and steady can work. Just ask the tortoise.
Accept and love
Bridging the personality gap of an extroverted parent and introverted tween can present many trials and tribulations. But children do eventually find their way and come into their own. Provide encouragement and be there as they explore new things at their own pace.