I work with a lot of smart, creative, and sensitive girls, and many of them are introverts. In terms of academic achievement, this is a great asset. Introverts are often studious, focused and mature for their age. Because they’re deep, reflective, and good listeners, they take in the world. While everyone else is talking, they’re absorbing, analyzing and making sense of everything.However, in high school, being an introvert can be socially challenging. We live an extroverted world that promotes constant contact, with everyone being in touch through social media. This is overwhelming to an introvert who recharges by spending time alone. How does any of this pertain to you and your teen daughter?
Some of the Mom’s I work with are worried about their introverted daughters. “Will she make friends?” “Will she stand up for herself?” “Will she be okay?” or “Why won’t she talk to me?” (though all the Moms ask me this question!). Parents believe if they push their daughter to be involved in group activities, they will get more comfortable. This often backfires and makes them withdraw because they don’t feel accepted. Being an introvert is like being born with red hair – it’s in your DNA. Recent brain research confirms this.
There’s a great book called The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World that sings the praises of your unique daughter and how she will shine when she feels understood. It also explains how and why introverts are different and, of course, what’s so great about them that most extroverts often miss. No need to worry about her future, just focus on the useful ways to support her genius.
These tips can get you started:
1) Let Her Be. She needs space to recharge, especially after being at school all day. Her safe haven is her inner world. Give her time to digest the intensity before asking her questions or to do anything. A simple “Hi honey. It’s good to see you”, will do. This will reduce her anxiety and prevent overwhelm.
2) Buy The Introvert Advantage. Read it together. Be open and curious about who she is. Point out her strengths and let her know the book helps you understand her experience. This will be incredibly validating to her since most introverts feel they should be more extroverted. Watch her relax.
3) Watch the Quiet Ted Talk Together. I would recommend the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, but it’s research based and rather dry – even for grownups. However, she will love the title since all introverts secretly wish everyone would stop talking so much!
4) Make Space for Her. Introverts need to be drawn out. If everyone is talking over her at dinner, ask them to be quiet so you can hear her. Remember, she often feels invisible and thinks people don’t want to hear what she has to say. If you show her you’re interested without pursuing her too much, she will open up.
5) Celebrate How Amazing She Is. Here are some great introvert qualities: insightful, aware, thoughtful, responsible, creative, independent and self-reflective. They also tend to establish stable long-term relationships, so be grateful for the reduction in teen drama and the deep connection she has to you, though she may not know how to express it.
Lorraine Platt is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Marin County, Mill Valley, CA. She co-founded Teen Solutions Therapy with her husband Richard Platt, LMFT. She specializes in mentoring teen girls and coaching parents.