Dr Diana Monteiro
I have a 9 year old son who withdraws completely in social gatherings. He simply refuses to talk, even to relatives. But he is fine when just my husband and I are around. What can we do to draw him out.
Socialising for children among adults can be a challenging experience depending on the personality of the child. An extroverted child talks easily to others, while for an introverted child this is a difficult and uncomfortable experience. Extroverts get energised by people, while introverts prefer their own company and look for inner solitude. Introverted children, like introverted adults naturally tend towards fewer close relationships of good quality. Socially, extroverts get more attention, while introverts are often told to ‘be more extroverted’. Fortunately, both types are completely normal and just different dimensions of personality.
For a child, there are simple markers of whether something is wrong and needs attention. When a child is going through any difficulty, academically, a child’s performance will likely suffer. Behaviourally, the child will start to act out or withdraw from everyone, so look for changes in behaviour that are suddenly different from before. Socially, a child should have friends and if they are unable to make or maintain some friendships, this might be a sign as well. If a child is able to socialise normally with parents and talks to them openly, has at least one or two friends, and is doing normally in school and at home, then there is little to worry about.
There is nothing wrong with this behaviour so accept the child the way he/she is. If the child refuses to socialise much, allow them the space to do so, while also gradually exposing them to different people and situations without forcing them. As long as all other areas in the child’s life are fine, introverted behaviour is not something to be worried about. It is a normal part of development.
(The writer is a counselling psychologist at the Hyderabad Academy of Psychology. You can write to her at email@example.com)