If you child is an introvert you probably already know that she can be slow to warm up to new activities and is quickly overwhelmed in some social situations. While there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, it can cause some difficulties when those around her expect her to be an extrovert. Daycare may be one of those situations. Find out how you can help your little introvert get the most out of daycare.
Are shyness and introversion the same thing?
Many people mistakenly think that shyness and introversion are the same thing. They are not. According to the American Psychological Association, shyness is defined as feeling "awkward, tense or worried during social encounters". It further explains that blushing, a pounding heart, sweating and nausea are often experienced and may lead shy people to withdraw or isolate themselves. Shy people, and children, worry about how others will view them and refrain from participation out of fear. Building their self-esteem and self-confidence will help shy children overcome their fears and become more involved in social activities.
Introversion refers to the way your child gains energy from the world. An introvert gains energy from within and prefers quiet time to think and reflect. Social interaction requires great energy for an introvert and will leave her feeling drained. To recharge, the introvert needs quiet or alone time. While introverts may avoid social interaction and choose to watch from the sidelines, their reason for doing so differs from the shy child. The introvert remains aloof because the activity drains her energy (or she simply doesn't enjoy loud, rambunctious activities) while the shy child avoids the activity out of fear. Activities designed to bolster self-esteem and self-confidence will not help an introverted child. Letting her join the activities when she feels comfortable will.
Why does it matter if my child is shy or an introvert?
It matters because shy children miss out on activities they would enjoy because of their fear of judgment. While they may want to participate, they are too afraid to do so. Introverted children simply prefer solitary activities or activities involving one or two close friends. A shy child may be taught to overcome his fears, but the introvert cannot not be taught to change his biological temperament. In short, shy children are controlled by their fears, while introverted children are simply doing what comes naturally to them.
How do you help an introverted child survive daycare?
The first step to helping your introverted child is to recognize that she is not broken and does not need fixing. The problem arises when you and the daycare staff fail to understand that your child simply interacts differently to the world than her more outgoing counterparts.
Talk to the day care staff. Make sure they understand the differences between shyness and introversion. If your child is very young, she may need staff assistance in finding a quiet place to rest and rejuvenate when she is overwhelmed. Ask how such moments will be addressed.
Talk to your child about what to expect at the daycare facility. If you have made arrangements for quiet time or a rest area with the staff, share that information with your child.
Take your child to visit the day care and introduce her to the staff. Give her a tour of the child care center and point out play areas she will likely enjoy, such as the reading area.
Give your little one time to unwind when she gets home from daycare. This will allow her to recharge her batteries before transitioning to time at home. A calming video, soft music or quiet time in her room for solitary play or any quiet activity will do. Let her wait until later to tell you about her day.
Your little one depends on you to help her learn to navigate the world. Daycare should be no exception. By talking to the staff about her in-born temperament you can avoid many problems. When you (and the daycare staff) show respect for her as an introvert, her involvement in daycare activities are likely to be more pleasant, setting the stage for healthy interaction with her peers.