5 Reasons Your Introverted Child is Thrilled to be Back at School
The start of a new school year can be stressful for everyone, but introverted students face a unique set of challenges as they return to learning environments that cater more to their extroverted peers. From group projects, to team sports, to teachers who dole out grease to the squeakiest wheels, there are plenty of downsides to attending school while introverted. And this is a shame, because many introverts love learning.
“it is not surprising that school is not a positive experience for many gifted introverts,” write Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig. “It can be loud, crowded, superficial, boring, overstimulating, and focused on action, not reflection.”
But if they can look past these stress inducers, introverts also have a lot of powerful upsides to look forward to at back-to-school time. Parents and educators should keep these positives in mind as students get back into the swing of things this fall.
Here are five reasons your introverted child might actually be thrilled to be back at school.
1. It’s a return to a favorite introvert pastime: studying
Introverts thrive in quiet and many are bookworms. After the raucousness of summertime, they may well rejoice in a return to days arranged around reading, writing, memorizing, problem-solving and quiet reflection.
As Laurie Helgoe writes for Psychology Today, introverts are especially well-suited for studious activities. While extroverts might have to discipline themselves to endure solitary work, introverts embrace it.
“Introverts are collectors of thoughts, and solitude is where the collection is curated and rearranged to make sense of the present and future,” says Helgoe. “Introverts can tolerate — and enjoy — projects that require long stretches of solitary activity.”
Parents and teachers can recognize and respect introverts’ studious nature by allowing them plenty of time to work independently in class and giving them space at home to read, write and reflect.
2. A new school year signifies progress toward adulthood
All kids long for the day when they’ll be grown up and allowed to make their own rules, but for introverts, who constantly grapple with a loud and social world they feel at odds with, this desire can be even more acute.
“We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids ‘blossom’ into secure and happy adults,” says Susan Cain in her seminal book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” “We liken it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it’s not the children who change but their environments. As adults, they get to select the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plunked into.”
The start of a new school year is an exciting mark of progress toward a time when introverts will finally have a measure of control over their environment, their activities and the company they keep. This is a powerful motivator that can refresh an introvert’s hope and drive each fall.
3. School forces introverts to get social
Solitude might feel like the most natural state of being for an introverted child, but too much alone time can make anyone lonely. School provides an important catalyst to nudge introverts back into the company of their age peers.
After a summer whiled away reading, drawing, writing or getting lost in daydreams, an introvert can benefit from returning to a classroom setting that forces him to develop and deploy important social skills.
But just as importantly, he’ll probably enjoy it, maybe even to his surprise. It’s true that too much socialization can make introverts feel exhausted and overstimulated. But research has shown that people — introverts and extroverts alike — report experiencing positive feelings after engaging in social behaviors like talking and being assertive.
As a parent or educator, do encourage introverted children to flex their social muscles a bit throughout the school day. Just know that they’re more likely than the extroverts to need to balance this out with some quiet time to relax and recharge.
4. The school week offers a return to structure
Since introverts like to control their environments and the amount of stimuli they’re exposed to, they thrive on the predictability of structure. Having a plan and knowing what to expect makes them feel safe and secure. Unstructured summer days can be nice for a while, but a return to school brings the comfort of a consistent routine, with activities neatly arranged into discrete blocks of time throughout the day.
“Creating regular morning, after-school, and evening schedules shape a predictable innie-friendly world where rules are known and surprises kept to a minimum,” writes Marti Olsen Laney in “The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child.”
Let your introverted child thrive this fall by helping him define his routine — and by talking through ways to handle those inevitable deviations from the plan.
5. It’s an opportunity to show off strengths
Introverts love to explore thoughts and ideas, and they can be some of the best listeners. They often have unparalleled concentration and can easily spend hours digging deep into an area of interest and honing expertise.
“Introverts excel at building individual relationships, critical thinking, creative problem solving, and working independently,” says career coach Lori Howard.
A learning environment gives introverted children a chance to put these strengths to work by absorbing information from teachers and peers and taking time to gather their thoughts and plan strategically. Being able to contribute with their reading, writing and problem-solving capabilities gives them a chance to strut their stuff and earn recognition and academic accolades, which can be important confidence boosters.
This fall, remember that a quiet nature can mask a deep love of learning, and look for ways to equip the introverted children in your classroom or family for a successful school year.