Each one of us has a unique way of reenergizing. Some individuals draw energy from being around a lot of people and stimuli, while others prefer being alone. Understanding whether your son or daughter is an introvert, an extrovert or an ambivert and then aligning their activities and social interactions accordingly can greatly reduce their stress and improve their overall emotional well-being. This is particularly true during high stress situations such as deployments and PCS moves.
Which Temperament Is Your Child?
If you're not sure whether your child is an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, here's a breakdown of the most common traits that each group exhibits:
Introverts often recharge by spending time alone or in the company of a small group of close friends or relatives. They often gravitate towards activities that are conducted independently. Many people believe that all introverts are shy, however this is a misconception. The world is filled with introverts who refrain from conversations simply because they don't desire a lot of verbal communication, not because they're shy.
Extroverts are very social and outgoing. They recharge by being around other people, in fact, many subscribe to the philosophy that the more people they're around the better. They're often active participants in conversations and if there isn't one, there's an excellent chance that they'll start one.
Ambiverts exhibit a mixture of extroverted and introverted traits. For example, a teenage girl who's an ambivert may have a large circle of friends that she loves to socialize with but she also craves time alone. She's just as content sitting home reading a book as hanging out at the mall with her friends.
Creating a Strategy
Now that you have a basic handle on the basic traits for each of these three temperaments, let that knowledge guide you in determining how much or how little stimulation your child needs to feel refreshed and reenergized.
How To Help Introverted Kids
- Make sure they have plenty of alone time to decompress.
- Avoid over-scheduling their days with activities that bombard them with stimuli.
- Respect their need for quiet time. In other words, if possible refrain from interacting with them while they're trying to decompress from the busyness of life.
How To Help Extroverted Kids
- Build plenty of social activities and outings into their schedule.
- Engage in as much conversation and interaction with them as you possibly can. Chatting with your extroverted child while you make dinner or fold laundry will help fill his or her need for social interaction, plus it gives you an opportunity to hear what's going on in their world.
- Consider enrolling them in one of the various military camps for kids. Not only will they be around numerous other military kids but they'll also be kept busy with fun activities and new learning experiences.
How To Help Ambiverted Kids
- Balance is the key. Be sure their lives have a good mix of social stimuli and alone time built in.
- Pay attention to their cues. For example, you may find that after spending many hours in the company of others, your ambiverted child returns home, grabs a book, and retreats to his or her room. Or, you may find that after spending several hours alone, he's counting the minutes until he can meet up with his friends. When possible, try to accommodate whichever particular need your child has at the time.
- Provide variety. Expose your ambiverted child to a wide variety of new experiences and learning opportunities. This tactic will help keep their world interesting while also assisting her in learning more about her personal preferences, knowledge that she'll be able to revert to as her life progresses.
Meeting Everyone's Needs
So what happens if you have several children and each has a different temperament? How can you meet each child's needs without driving yourself and everyone in the household crazy?
Most families include a mix of introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts. The good news is that ensuring everyone's needs get met isn't nearly as challenging as you may think.
For starters, don't be under the impression that you must meet everyone's needs every moment of every day. If you try to, you'll end up exhausted and with a sky-high stress level. Instead, opt for activities and outings that offer something for each of the temperaments within your family.
For instance, attending story time at the library may be a great solution if you have preschoolers and young elementary aged kids. The extroverts will be with other kids while also being entertained by the story teller. Your introverts can sit and listen to the story and interact with the other children as much or as little as they'd like.
Outings to parks and/or play dates is another simple solution. Your extroverts can socialize with their peers, and your introverts can either play alone or interact with a select few.
In either scenario, your ambiverts will gravitate towards the amount of stimulation they need at any given moment. Don't be surprised if you see them mixing it up a little, having animated conversations with others and then retreating into low key activities or solo activities.
Another option is to alternate scheduling days or evenings that cater specifically to one of the temperaments. For example, let's say you've had an extremely busy week filled with lots of running around. You can tell from your introverted child's mood that he or she has either reached or surpassed their stimulation limits. An easy solution may be to announce that Saturday is going be a day to stay home and unwind.
The same principle applies for the extroverts in your family. If you've been cooped up inside because of weather, illness, or something else make it a point to plan an outing that includes plenty of social interaction.
Strive for a Healthy Balance
Whether your child is an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there's no need to go to extremes when trying to meet their needs. Your extroverted child doesn't need to be on the go or to have nonstop conversations every waking moment, nor does your introverted child require endless hours of solitude every single day.
Taking Care of You
Moms and dads, you count too. Don't make the mistake of always putting everyone else's needs above your own. It's important for your own mental, physical, and emotional health to make time to recharge—especially during a deployment when so many demands are placed on your time and energy.
You probably have a pretty good idea of whether you're an introvert, extrovert or ambivert. However, if you'd like to gain a bit more insight into your temperament and personality, set aside a few moments and take the Jung Typology test.
- Please Understand Me, by Dr. David Keirsey
- Compare Prices
- The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child: Helping Your Child in an Extroverted World, by Marti Olsen Laney
- What Type Am I? Discovering Who You Really Are, by Renee Baron
- Your Child's Unique Temperament: Insights and Strategies for Responsive Parenting, by Sandee Graham McClowry
Updated by Armin Brott, April 2016