Worried about your quiet child?

Did you ever worry about your child being quiet? Wondering if (s)he is social enough, has enough friends, is well liked etc.? If you did, you’re not alone.
Many parents worry about their child not living up to the expectations of our extroverted society. Especially when parents are extroverts themselves, they may be wondering what’s wrong and think (s)he is shy or maybe even depressed. Well, there’s a good chance nothing is wrong. Your child may just be introverted.

Even I, an introvert myself, stepped into the same pitfall. I was worried about my daughter being shy. Wondering if she had enough friends, was well liked and enjoying herself. Because I was very shy as a child, I really wanted to prevent her from going through that same ordeal.
Even though all of her teachers the past couple of years told us she was doing great, was social and played with a lot of different kids, I kept worrying about it. Until I recently read “Quiet, the powers of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain and realized that she was just being her beautiful introverted self and I was projecting my own fears onto her.

Although from the outside introversion and shyness may appear to be the same, there is a substantial difference. Shyness is based on fear, being afraid of what others will think. An extrovert can be shy and show the same behavior as an introvert that isn’t. They’re both quiet, but for a different reason.
Introversion means that a person is more focused toward the inside. Introverted people don’t (necessarily) dislike people. But, where extroverted people gain energy from their interaction with others, introverts get drained.
For example, no matter how much my daughter likes to go to school, when she gets home, she needs quiet time. She will curl up in a corner of the couch and read. If I ask too many questions, she will get cranky. She likes school, but it also takes a lot of her energy and she needs time alone to refuel.

Introverted kids are often daydreamers and thinkers. They like to observe and think about things.
Whereas extroverted children dive into a party or playground to go play right away, introverted kids will first observe. They like to take things in before they join and usually have a preference for other quieter kids. And it’s not that they don’t talk, they just like to get to know someone first.

If you’re an extrovert and not sure how to handle your introverted child, then maybe this will help.

Accept that they are quiet. As long as they have a few good friends and they are happy, its ok. Not everybody needs loads of friends. If you’re not sure, ask your child’s teacher (at school and/or sports) how they are doing. Just make sure they are not afraid to speak their mind. It’s ok to be quiet, but they do have to be able to stand up for themselves.

Respect their need for privacy and downtime. Quiet time is essential for them to recharge, if they don’t, they’ll get overloaded and breakdown. Schedule downtime between activities.

As I said before, they are thinkers. They need to process events and like to think things through and rehearse their response, so give them some time. They don’t talk very easily. If you want to know what’s going on inside of them, try going on a walk or do something else that is relaxed enough to talk, but doesn’t put your focus on your child.

 

The Fairy Garden

The first week of my course ‘writing for children’ we had to write about a life event. That came pretty easily. This week’s assignment was to write something, mixing two genres. I couldn’t think of anything really. So, I made it a little bit easier on myself 🙂 . I asked Lisa what kind of story she would like me to write. That wasn’t too difficult for her. She wanted a story about a girl called Lizzy that got a box from her father and would meet fairies and other fantasy creatures. Great, that gave me two genres to work with, realistic and fantasy. I wrote it for children between 7 and 10 years old. If any of my Dutch friends thinks they know a child that may like the story, I’d love to translate it for them and hear their feedback.

 

The Fairy garden is a story, partly realistic, partly fantasy. The audience is children 7-10.

The Fairy Garden

Lizzy couldn’t sleep. She just heard something and was convinced there was someone. Or something. Like a dragon or a witch. She clamped her arms around her pillow. Her hand touched something. Suddenly she remembered the small wooden box her dad had once given her. He had told her it was a magical box and that she could use it whenever she needed a friend. All she had to do was open it and whisper: I’m Lizzy. She had put the box underneath her pillow and had forgotten about it until now. She grabbed the box. It fitted perfectly in the palm of her hand.

She opened it. Nothing happened. It was just an empty box and didn’t look like anything magical would happen, but she whispered “I’m Lizzy” anyway.

Within a blink of an eye she was no longer in her bed but in a big field surrounded by beautiful flowers that smelled wonderfully. Oh… and fairies! Lots of fairies! She pinched herself. Ouch, that hurt. She watched a fairy in pink as she danced through the air. So beautiful! But then… she gasped. A unicorn! Playing with the cutest little dragon ever!

“Do you like it here, Lizzy?”
Startled Lizzy looked to her side. There was the pink fairy she had seen earlier.
“Uh… yes,” she said timidly.
“My name is Rosa” said the fairy. “Let me show you around.”
“What is this place? Where am I?”
“This the Fairy Garden”.
“And how do you know my name?”
“How could we invite you if we didn’t know your name?”
“You invited me?”
“Yes, didn’t your dad give the box to you and tell you how to use it?”
“Yes, but…”

Rosa didn’t let her finish. “We invite children that, for whatever reason, need us. Your father used to come here when he was young.”
Her father used to come here? Why?

As if Rosa had read her mind, she said: “your dad came here when he was your age. He was very shy and didn’t like it. Just like you. We helped him overcome that and now we will help you.”
Lizzy couldn’t believe it. Her dad!? Shy!? She smiled, that meant the fairies could help her too. This place made her happy and knowing the fairies would be there for her whenever she needed them made her feel at ease.

She yawned. All of the sudden she felt very tired. Rosa smiled: “I know it’s a lot to take in. Why don’t you go back home, get some sleep and come back later? You can come back anytime you want to.”

“So… how do I get back home?”
“See that little cottage over there?”
Lizzy nodded.
“Just go in there and you’ll go right back to where you came from.”

She gave Rosa a big hug and entered the cottage. As sudden as she had entered the Fairy Garden she was back in her bed. Knowing she could always return to her friends, she fell into a deep and happy sleep.

 

 

You don’t have to understand someone to be respectful

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.
Friedrich Nietzsche

The other day I was at a party. After I finished talking to a friend, I started listening in on another conversation. Since I just dropped in on the conversation, I didn’t know exactly what it was about, but it seemed being sociable was the theme. One of the women said that she couldn’t stand those engineers that would sneak along the wall (as if they are trying to hide) and not say anything. Apparently that didn’t feel comfortable to her and she told how she once walked up to one of them, stood right in front of him and said hi.

Honestly, I was shocked. That is something kids do in high school, not adults at work. Or so I thought.
That person may very well have been a shy introvert and was likely horrified when she was right in his face. I don’t know why she did it. If it was just to make her feel better or to somehow let that person know he should greet. But whatever her reason, there’s a good chance her action made this person draw even further back in his shell. If it was that important, annoying or whatever to her, she could have just politely asked him about it and/or tell him how it made her feel instead of being intrusive and disrespectful.

Since I didn’t feel like saying I’m introverted myself (they may have noticed, I don’t know, but I definitely wasn’t going to share 🙂 ), I started by telling them about a book I’m reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain. About how western society (and the US in particular) is focused on extroversion. How people are expected to show, and are appreciated for sociable, talkative and outgoing behavior. Those are good qualities and introverted people have other good qualities. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all respect and appreciate each other’s differences?

Hopefully it made them think about it. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, I never know what to say. I have to think about things first and then I prefer the write it down (apparently not uncommon amongst introverted people 🙂 ).

What I would really like for all of us, is to try and understand we are not all the same and that we all have our own qualities. Of course I understand that when someone is completely your opposite, it may be challenging to understand why someone is behaving the way they do. And even then, we can still be respectful of that person.

And this is not about introversion, but about autism, depression or whatever character trait or illness people may have that makes them not compliable with society’s standards. Different doesn’t mean less, it just means different. And it may be hard on people, so let’s not make it any more difficult for them. Let’s see the beauty and the qualities in others and appreciate and respect them for that.

 

Welcome to my life

Ok, this is kind of scary, so please be nice 🙂 .
I’ve discovered I like to write, hence this blog. But… I want more. And so, I’ve decided to do an online course writing for children. I’ve never written anything for kids, so it’s scary. All kinds of limiting beliefs that come to haunt me 🙂 . Every week there is an assignment and I want to share my very first one. The assignment was to write something about a life event. So, welcome to my life.

Comments on what’s good or not so good are greatly appreciated. If you have older children (I’m guessing between 10 and 16???) it would be awesome if you could get them to read it and tell what they think of it.
My apologies that the story is not divided into paragraphs, for some reason I could not make that work 🙁 .

 

Welcome to eighth grade
Oh…no, no, no!!! The only seats left are in the back of the class room! I can’t sit in the back of the room! How did I get here so late!? How could I be so careless!? I know I have to be early the first class of the year to get my perfect seat in the middle of the room. Not in the back with the talkies and the troublemakers and not too close to the teacher either.
Ok, ok, ok… don’t panic! I can’t panic here. Not in front of all these people. Take a deep breath.
Ok, so I have to sit in the back of the room, at least get a chair close to the door, that way I can get the hell out of here as soon as the bell rings. Over there, second last row, next to the girl with the too blond hair and too much make up.
Now what? Do I need to ask her if I can sit next to her or…?
“All right everyone, take a seat and get your things ready”.
Saved by the teacher. Now run and sit!
Oh man… too much perfume as well.
“Welcome to eighth grade, I’m mister Klein and I will be teaching you all about economics this year”.
Of all classes I came too late to his class! Mister Klein is really nice but he just doesn’t know how to handle a class. His classes are famous for being chaotic. Everyone knows you can do practically anything without consequences. And it’s the one class that I really, really need to pay attention to.
That disgusting perfume is making me nauseous. Why do some people wear that much perfume? And if it were a nice perfume, but it’s some kind of heavy synthetic flower-ish smell.
Ok, I really need to pay attention or I will be behind from the very first lesson on.
“Don’t you just loooooove my new perfume?”
Great, Miss Too Much of Everything is discussing her new perfume with her friends in the seats right behind us. They’re not even trying to whisper.
Mister Klein is desperately trying to make himself heard. A lost cause. How long before he will go home with a burn out this year? I feel sorry for him. Why doesn’t he apply for another job? Everyone can see he is unhappy.
Just five minutes since class started. Only 45 more minutes…. And nine more months…. But hey, who’s counting?

Welcome to eighth grade.

Why all schools should teach mindfulness and meditation

If every 8 year old child in the world is taught meditation, we can eliminate violence from the world within one generation.
The Dalai Lama

When I did my first NLP training (I was thirty something), I remember thinking: “I wish this was taught in schools, it would’ve helped me so much”.
Of course it is important to learn to read and write and do math. And it would be really great if schools would also teach us skills for life. How to deal with our emotions and challenges that we will encounter. How awesome would it be if this were part of every school’s curriculum? If every child would have the same chance of learning these skills.

The other day I came across an article about the Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore. This school did something really awesome. About two years ago, they stopped punishing kids that misbehaved. Instead, they send these kids to a “mindful moment room”. This room is set up as a meditation room with mats, comfy pillows and decorations. When kids are being send to this room, they are encouraged to participate in breathing exercises and mindful meditation. They also have the possibility to talk about how they ended up in that room.
The school also has a after school program that teaches the students mindfulness practices and yoga.

And guess what? The results are amazing. The school hasn’t had a single suspension since they started the program. Another school nearby that also uses this program, says that they have less suspensions and an increased attendance.

Even though there isn’t a whole lot of research on this topic, evidence so far suggests that there’s definitely a benefit to having kids practice mindfulness and meditation. Their ability to pay attention increases as well as class room participation and they have more self-control and respect for others.

Imagine if every school would add mindfulness practice and meditation to their curriculum. What would happen if every child would be given the chance to learn this? The possibilities would be endless.

I think our school is doing pretty good with incorporating the “love and logic” program and I think mindfulness and meditation would be a wonderful addition. I really want to bring this to the attention of our principle.
For as long as we don’t have a program like this at school, I’ve decided to read about teaching mindfulness and meditation to children. I have found some great resources (if you’re interested, I will put a few links at the end of this post).

Yesterday I found a site that offers free meditations for kids and I decided to do one with Lisa. When she went to bed, I asked her if she wanted to try a breathing exercise with me. She did (anything to postpone your bedtime 🙂 ). I chose the shortest to first see how it would go. She liked doing it. When I asked her what she liked about it, she said that it made her calm. I asked her if she wanted to do exercises like this more often and she said yes. So, we’re definitely going to try more exercises 🙂 .

Sites that I found during my search are:
Annaka Harris
Mindfulness for kids
8 ways to teach mindfulness to kids
Mindfulness for kids