We live in a world that promotes extroversion as the best way to get what we want and be happy. It’s no wonder, then, that mothers want their children to speak up for themselves, be open, and fight for their dreams fiercely.
When we notice our child is quiet and introverted, we’re not disappointed. Rather, we’re faced with the fact that we’ll have to put in extra effort to help them find their place, especially when it comes to after-school activities and sports. Introverted children usually find the environment of most after-school activities too loud, intense, and overwhelming. As a result, parents are afraid that their little ones won’t be healthy and active since they’re unwilling to engage in sports.
What we overlook is that many famous athletes are, in fact, introverts. And if megastars such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods could overcome their shyness without changing what’s amazing about their personalities, so can our kids. Here are a few tips that can help you support your little introverts along the way.
Have a one-on-one conversation
Kids are just small people, aren’t they? Depending on your child’s age, you can have a serious conversation, to a point, about what they would like to do. Explain to them why physical activity is important and how sports can be exciting. See if you can tap into their interests about a certain activity. See what they would consider the most fun. Make sure they realize it is not an obligation, and that they could try different sports until they find the one they like.
Engage them in the activity
Did you see your shy kid kicking the soccer ball in the backyard and enjoying it? Or perhaps you’ve seen your child drawing pictures of nature, hills, and endless trails?
This could be a sign the kids want to participate in an activity but they’re not sure how to handle the social aspect of the situation. So how can you help?
Try playing the game with them – practice makes perfect. You, your husband, siblings, and other people they feel comfortable around can play teammates and coach. Or, if you see them drawing landscapes, for example, why not try to connect their love of art with their love of nature in one activity? You can try hiking with your children to see if they have a spark for outdoor adventures, and bring along art supplies so they can sketch all the wonders they’re seeing.
You can do this with other sports and activities as well. Use their affinity with certain activities to engage them and perhaps even familiarize them with something new.
Look for the good signs
Do you know what’s the best sign that a kid should be engaged in some activity? It makes them happy. And trust us, as a mom, you’ll definitely know when an activity worth all the effort comes along.
As for other clues, try to search for little victories and point out the positive sides of their engagement. If they’re really good at a specific part of the sports, praise them for it. And if you notice they’re trying their best and trying to be team players, make sure to give them credit.
Don’t put them under the spotlight
Regardless of how proud you are and how much you’d like to show that, you shouldn’t put a shy child under the spotlight. Don’t go overboard with the cheering on the field. “You can do it, sweetie!” could be something an extrovert kid would enjoy, but an introvert will prefer low-key support. Shy kids need to know you’re there for them, but they don’t want you to scream it out loud. Show some restraint and a lot of love.
Take baby steps
Pushing introverted kids into social situations too suddenly could only result in them becoming even more closed and afraid. So, try taking it slow and give your child time to warm up to the sport.
You can start with private lessons in individual sports. Talk with the coach and explain the nature of your child’s shyness. See if, together, you can find the best way to keep your kid engaged and happy.
Consider activities such as tennis, golf, kayaking, swimming, and athletics. Later, after gaining confidence, your child might wish to give it a shot with group activities like soccer or basketball.
Set realistic goals
You shouldn’t expect big wins and enthusiasm at the beginning. Instead, work together and set realistic goals. Small wins, such as volunteering to play one half-time or asking the coach to play a certain position, are big steps for an introverted child. Don’t worry, the steps will get bigger as time goes by, but only if you are there to provide support.
Don’t push it
There will be moments when your child will want to give up. When that happens, don’t try to talk them out of it right away, but don’t take it as a definite sign they need to quit either.
Instead, listen and observe. Maybe they’ve had a bad day. Maybe they’re expecting too much of themselves, and you need to remind them just to have fun. But if your child looks distressed and unhappy every time they come home from practice, it’s time to seriously consider whether the activity is appropriate for them. Try to have a sincere conversation with them.
If things aren’t going well for some time, you can take a break and attempt to find a more enjoyable activity.
Finally, you need to embrace your kid. Being an introvert is not a flaw or a setback. It just means being different. And different is often a good thing. Celebrate your fantastic child, cherish them, and respect their desire to be alone at times. Everyone needs a battery-recharge, and for introverts, that is peace and quiet. Don’t take their desire to recharge alone as a sign that something is wrong, and make sure to leave some time for that after every activity.