Parenting an introvert– the preschool years

Parenting a young, introverted child can be very challenging.  When Rebekah was a toddler and preschooler she would often get cranky and difficult for no apparent reason.  One moment I would think to myself how beautifully the children were playing together and the next Rebekah would have a full-scale meltdown.  Once she crossed that line, her day {and ours!} would spiral downhill from there; her funk would remain for the rest of the day or at least until after her nap.  I was at a loss on how to predict, prevent, or stop these meltdowns.

One afternoon I read a chapter about introverted children in Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  Suddenly the lightbulb came on–and it was such a simple concept!  The poor child was an introvert in a very busy family and her needs in this area were not being met at all!  She was just overstimulated and exhausted by all the constant togetherness and group activity.  The only thing she knew to do was to express her discontent and frustration with fit throwing.

Soon, I began noticing that she was struggling most with behavior and attitude on days when she had non-stop interaction with others–which in our home was most days.  She needed time and space to cope, but she was too young to recognize that need.  Instead of pulling away to recharge herself she would get cranky.  At first, trying to separate her for alone time was a disaster.  She felt that she was getting singled out and punished, though I was just trying to help her.

I eventually learned that it was better to get everyone engaged in individual activity several times a day so that she could recharge without feeling punished.  (Being an introverted Mom, this helped me to recharge during the day as well!)  Soon I could anticipate the need for individual time before the problem even started and our home became peaceful again.  Well… as peaceful as a home with 4 children ages 5 and under can be!

It does get easier.  Now that she is elementary aged she often takes time alone to recharge without me orchestrating that time.  She still wants to be in close proximity to the rest of the family, but she will create space by going to the kitchen table or a different spot in the family room to play alone.

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