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She might be your mini me—but that doesn’t mean your girl’s personality or social style will mimic yours. While you live for big parties, hosting family gatherings, and spur-of-the-moment get-togethers, she might be way happier flying solo or chatting with her one good friend.
Or maybe the situation is reversed. Perhaps your girl has the whole class on speed dial, while you get hives thinking about even making small talk with the other parents and caregivers at the PTA meeting.
Before you launch into must-fix-it mode or get your tissue-paper party garland in a twist, do a little recon. Ask yourself (and her teachers, if needed) if your girl’s social skills are developing normally. If so, then you’re simply dealing with a personality type that’s different from yours—and that’s OK. There’s no one right way to be, in fact, many people are outgoing in one situation but shy in another. Here are a few ways you can support her social style, whatever it may be.
You = Party Animal. She = Not So Much.
The real danger in this dynamic? Trying to push your girl to be more social than she feels comfortable with. In this “pics or it didn’t happen” and FOMO (the ever-dreaded fear of missing out) culture, your girl may already be feeling undue pressure to put herself out there and be in the center of things when she’d rather be off to the side reading a book.
Add to that the fact that some people may think of their child’s popularity as a reflection of their own success as a parent. Instead of falling into this mindset, try to understand why she prefers her quiet time—maybe she feels anxious or overwhelmed in group settings, finds being social tiring, or just doesn’t have much in common with the groups available to her. Or maybe she’s simply very thoughtful and likes quiet time to reflect and think about the world around her. At any rate, there’s nothing wrong with her wanting a life out of the spotlight.
So how can you help your girl thrive? First off, don’t get mad or disappointed if she reacts to social situations differently than you might. That will only lead to her feeling like you don’t love her for who she is, which couldn’t be further from the truth! Although some might misunderstand her social style as rudeness, it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is a natural “joiner,” and that’s perfectly fine. If she seems to have difficulty introducing herself or feels anxious when others approach her in group settings, work with her to find polite ways to handle these situations that stay true to her personality.
On the flip side, resist the urge to label her an introvert, because labels of any kind can be limiting to children and teens who are still learning who they are and testing out different ways of being and/or are more social with some groups of friends or family than others. Instead, appreciate the strengths of her social style, and see if you can learn a thing or two from her way of life. Maybe an hour at home with a good book could help you recharge, too!
If you want to encourage your girl to be more comfortable with groups, instead of signing her up for team sports, which can be overwhelming, have her try something more individually focused, like track or martial arts. And embrace the friends she does have—get to know them, and make sure your girl knows you care about the people she’s welcomed into her circle.
When she does need to attend a bigger group activity, like a family gathering or wedding, help her come up with a game plan ahead of time to make it less overwhelming. Maybe it would help her to go outside for a minute alone if she needs a little break or to focus on talking with one or two people rather than feeling pressure to chat up the whole room. Strategies that can help her feel more at ease in a group will be useful throughout her life.
You = Quiet Caterpillar. She = Social Butterfly.
Having a girl who’s at the top of every RSVP list can be a bit of a challenge for more reserved parents and caregivers. Maybe you had just one or two close friends growing up and stuck to their sides through thick and thin. It’s only natural that if you cherish those kinds of relationships, you’d hope your girl develops bonds similar to yours. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong or less valuable about your girl taking more of a Pokémon approach to friendship (gotta collect ‘em all!) and splitting her time between many different groups. Stereotypes about popular kids being shallow are just that—stereotypes. When it comes to your girl and friendship, the more the merrier.
That said, supporting her outgoing ways can be a challenge if you feel overwhelmed by bigger social gatherings or anxious meeting new people. Believe it or not, if you’re feeling nervous about having to be social with the parents and caregivers of your girl’s friends, chances are at least one of them feels the same way you do! While the other adults probably want to get to know who you are on some level, that doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become close friends with them. Her friends’ parents do not have to become your besties!
Create opportunities for her to interact with other kids by signing her up for classes, playgroups, team sports, or play dates where you don’t need to take a host or supervisor role. It allows her the social stimulus she craves while also giving you time to yourself. Taking a pause for your own needs (yes, quiet time counts) isn’t selfish, in fact, it can help keep you focused, refreshed, and happy—all things you need as a caregiver! And as for the times when you’ll need to be a bigger part of the action—like hosting her birthday party or helping out with a class trip? Thinking ahead of time of topics you might discuss with other parents can reduce anxiety in the moment—plus, seeing how happy your girl is will make it all worthwhile. Who knows, you just might even have fun yourself!
But where can you find common ground? Quiet activities that the two of you can bond over, like reading books together, going for a bike ride, or working on a jigsaw puzzle, give you ways to spend high-quality time with your girl without stretching you to your limits.
The most important thing to remember? Accept each other, and work to understand what makes your girl tick. Awareness and education about your girl’s personality type (and your own!) will help her feel comfortable and confident in her own skin.