Even though your child was reserved when they were young, at least you had small conversations. Now you feel shut out and you’re worried about the long-term effects of their lack of social interaction.
What if they’re struggling with their mental health?
Your teen’s changing brain already has them in ‘dark mode’, needing more alone time to process a full day of stimulus at school; learning, social interactions, thoughts and feelings.
This pandemic and mask wearing has had a marked, negative impact on youth, increasing social anxiety. Mental health is paramount as teens develop a stronger self-identity and navigate their need for greater independence, a process that can lower their self-esteem by up to 30%. So is this social anxiety?
I often get messages from parents trying to force socialization on their teen out of concern for their wellbeing. Anything from having friends over, going to friend’s homes and participating in clubs or sports to ensure a healthy social life. Comparing your teen to yourself rather than embracing the difference amplifies the problem for both of you.
There’s two sides of the personality scale.
We live in world where extroversion is celebrated, thought to have higher intelligence (proven untrue) and is more socially acceptable. School is set up for extroverts where students are graded on class participation, presentations, group projects, oral reports and an overall charming personality.
Extroverts are more at ease around groups of people and are more verbal processors. They talk, hear themselves say it, process a little more, and stop talking as they absorb whatever they said. Extroverts are more animated in facial and physical expression and can struggle to be attentive listeners.
Then there’s the introverts. The softer spoken or silent types who enjoy time alone and are fulfilled with 1-2 close friends they see 1-2x/week. They love being alone, absorbed in a book or creative activity (including sports). Introversion is much less socially acceptable and often labelled as shy, aloof or even rude because of their lack of outward emotional expression and willingness to share.
Introverts process their world internally.
What they see, smell, hear, touch, think and feel is being processed in their brain without needing to talk about it. In fact, introverts only talk when they feel there’s something necessary to be said and strongly dislike small talk.
Personality style isn’t a choice and one isn’t better or worse than the other. It’s how you come into the world and we’re all wired differently. Forcing an introvert to talk, or shaming them for not sharing is like telling an extrovert to be quiet for an hour straight around people. It’s painful!
The shaming of introversion began long ago.
Did you know introversion was considered a social disease in the early 1900’s and it was the responsibility of parents to breed out of their children? Seriously. That’s the entire premise behind Dale Carnagie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Dale’s father was an introvert who struggled in a sales role while his family lived in poverty. Only after ‘overcoming’ his introversion was he successful and able to financially support his family.
Introverts don’t owe anyone or have to change to make others comfortable.
It may be confusing when your teen is chatty at home, with close friends or extended family they feel safe with. Then in a less familiar social environment they clam up and you, or other family and friends, chastise them for being rude.
Advocate for your teen by letting family know they’ll be around for key moments and otherwise sitting alone or taking time away from loud, chaotic environments is ok. Talk to your teen before large gatherings or group activities to manage expectations and empower them to set boundaries with others.
Most of all, let your teen know you love them in their silence and don’t expect them to talk or share unless they feel ready to. Support their passions even if they’re different than yours and know that their alone time is fulfilling, not hopelessly lonely.
Personality styles impacts your relationship with your teen, click below to join my FREE masterclass and learn my 3 pillars for creating an honest, connected relationship that lasts a lifetime, WITHOUT having to be a perfect parent.