How can we identify and support children who are introverted in an early childhood care setting and find ways to honor their need for space and solitude?
Somewhere along the way I read that people who tend towards being introverts aren't necessarily averse to being social butterflies but in order to recharge and regain energy they need space and alone time. People who tend to be extroverts are the opposite and they need to be around people to regain energy.
Anxiety is a natural human response to certain stimuli. It can become pathological like any emotional state but it's not problematic in and of itself. Anxiety is designed to keep us safe, physically and emotionally. Some children may become anxious after being in over stimulating social situations and other children may become anxious when spending time alone or isolated. Both are equal, neither one better than the other.
So, it's a fairly benign answer. Get to know a child, learn how they express anxiety or "needing a break". In some group settings such as a classroom, it may be effective for children to be able to choose where they want to be. Give space where a child can safely withdraw and reduce stimuli and then give space where a child can safely interact with others.
Introversion/extroversion is more like a teeter totter than black and white. Our needs change throughout the day and over the years. It's still important for us to experience uncomfortable situations so we learn effective coping skills for managing that anxiety.
In regard to both youth and staff who are called introverts and extroverts, I’ve found a wealth of knowledge from the folks at Gallup through the use of the Strength Finder for staff and Strength Quest for young people. (Do a web search for either of these names.)
Over a number of years of research and application, they have identified 34 Strengths that can give us great insights into working more effectively with youth and together as team members.
Specifically to Evelyn’s point, some of us do regularly need space to think while others of us need a good deal of social interaction. From my observation, it has been extremely empowering to youth to learn about their individual strengths as insights into what they need from us and what they can contribute to others. The Strength Quest tool is also a powerful way to explore potential employment.
I’d be happy to explore this in greater depth with anyone who’s interested.
I do enjoy reading what others share on the CYC-Net.
Charles and Evelyn I found both of your responses beneficial.
Thank you and be well.
I have worked with several children who suffer from mild to extreme anxiety. My age group was a bit older than the ECE age, but the techniques and strategies I used would work the same.
I purchased a program/book called Taming the Worry Dragons. This book was very beneficial to all the children I used it with. It showed them different breathing and counting techniques for when situations became too much for them. It breaks down anxiety to their level, so that they understand what it is they are going through at that time. It also comes with a workbook, which you can guide them through. After repeating these exercises on a weekly basis, 1 on 1, I noticed significant differences in the child's response to others, or to loud overly stimulating situations.
I also found just talking with that child, about what it was that was bothering them, helped calm them down. I became a figure of trust for them, and they were able to run things by me, or open up to me, which helped ease anxiety!