Sometimes things have to hit you in the head
I found myself swallowing back some tears when my littlest Mini was trying to explain to me the “funny feeling” she gets in her tummy when forced to talk to children she doesn’t know.
It was school holidays and we were doing that home holiday thing where you end up jamming as many activities into your life as possible! This is hard for us as we have two at different ends of the introversion/extroversion spectrum.
So we were on our way there – running late as usual – and littlest Mini says she doesn’t want to go. The conversation went something like this:
Mini – Mummy I REALLY don’t want to go.
Me – Why baby? It looks like it will be awesome.
Mini – My tummy feels funny mummy.
Me – Are you nervous babe?
Mini – No.
Me – Because you know being nervous when you do something new is totally ok, right?
Mini – SILENCE
Me – Are you worried about something?
Mini – SILENCE.
Me – Silence
Mini – I feel weird in the middle of the activity.
Me – You mean when there is a break in the session?
Mini – Yeah. I don’t know what to do when other kids start talking to me.
BINGO!!!!! Genius’ mother over here, forgot that littlest Mini is an introvert, so filling in space with conversation ain’t her thang! (and I should have known this, as there is that concept of apples not falling far from the tree and I too loathe filling in space when I’m on the unfamiliar social ground. My stomach flips for her).
Me – Oh sweetie. Guess what? I feel that way too. I get what you mean. I’ve learned a few tricks though. I can show you. We can use Big Mini to practice. Wanna watch?
So then visualize me doing a role play with Big Mini, my extrovert. She loves a good acting session, so she gets right into it.
Me – Hi, I’m Michelle.
Big Mini – Hi. I’m Big Mini. Where do you go to school?
Me – I go to St Awesomeness. Where do you go?
Big Mini – I go to Brilliant Primary
Me – Cool. Do you like it?
And so on and so forth goes the conversation practice. I’m training her that when she hasn’t much to add, try getting them to talk instead. Lots of people LOVE talking about themselves and their interests, so introverts can harvest this well.
Little Mini by now has decided to join in and give Big Mini or me some options of things to ask and say.
A roadblock then appears.
Mini – But what if you don’t agree on something they say or have asked you? What if they ask me to be friends and I don’t want to? What if we disagree on things?
Within another 15 minutes, we have rehearsed enough options that she feels armed and settled. We also have reinforced that everyone indifferent. Some people like to talk, others don’t, and that’s A-OK. We aren’t meant to be cookie-cutter versions of each other.
There we have it, good people. Learn from my ignorance! Remember that social skills and conversational skills are no less complicated to navigate for many of us than differential calculus. So we need to explicitly teach these skills to our children so that we can empower them to overcome their worries.
Knowledge is power!!!