Parenting Our Introverted Teenagers

My husband and I were recently having dinner with our friends, a newly married couple in their late 20s who graduated over a decade ago from the high school ministry where we previously served. They asked us what “the youth” were like nowadays, so we got to discussing the various Gen Z-brand jokes that are currently keeping the youngsters laughing. 

We all knew the well-worn, endearing trope of the Gen Z introvert. Perennially clad in soft, oversized loungewear and noise-canceling headphones and unapologetically antisocial, this teenager is armed with a fresh vocabulary with terms like “social battery” and “social bandwidth” for getting out of social situations. Instead of being disappointed when plans get canceled, these kids celebrate. 

I noted that we are parents to one such teenager. It’s remarkable that she has the verbiage to label and joke about some of her own “introvert traits.” Hearing this, my young (self-professed introvert) friend lamented, “I was born in the wrong generation! Back in high school being an introvert wasn’t something people celebrated, it’s something you got mocked for!” We all had a good laugh. 

While I’m glad that my daughter’s preference for being at home is now an accepted part of today’s culture, there are aspects of this cultural interpretation of “introvertism” that veer towards the not-so-cute and even unhealthy.

Seeing and Empathizing With Our Introverted Teens 

In the minds of our introverted teens, talking to people is a necessary chore, not anything enjoyable or beneficial. For some, conversation may even be something they fear or avoid. It’s very likely that our introverted teens have had some embarrassing or scary experiences in social situations that have heightened their discomfort. This was true for our daughter. 

Whatever the case may be, we shouldn’t automatically label their desire to avoid people as wholesale oversensitivity, laziness, or outright rebellion. Our fallenness extends even to our perceptions of what can harm us and what is safe, making for an upside-down view of what’s good and bad. Since we and our children are both recipients of unmerited grace in Jesus, we should show plenty of grace in how we evaluate our children. We love them by hoping and believing that with God’s help, they can grow in the things that are challenging for them (Cor 13:7, Luke 6:36-37).

Making Unpopular Parenting Decisions

At the same time, we parents graciously balance empathizing with our teenager’s misgivings with expanding their views of what it means to be an introvert. Being introverted is neither good nor bad; it is simply who God made our child to be. But we can’t let our teenagers use their love of being alone as an excuse to avoid people. We want to strengthen their skills in interacting with others so that they can enjoy the gift of being in community with other people. Ultimately, we want them to understand that their true identity as followers of Jesus does not mean remaining isolated and alone, but walking together meaningfully with other believers. 

Operating in a social environment is a skill that needs to be learned, just like swimming. There is only one way to learn to swim, and that is to get in the water. So it is with our teens and interacting with others. We can make them read books on the art of conversation and talk to them about being a fellow believer in a church body, but there’s no avoiding it – they will need to “get in the water.”

To that end, sometimes we parents will have to make the unpopular decision of overriding our teens’ desires to stay home. Unsurprisingly, to our teens, our ask feels like we are sacrificing their comfort and peace for something unnecessary and stressful. That was true for our daughter, who had some deeper anxieties and overwhelming feelings about our return to in-person church and youth group after COVID-19. 

Keeping Connected In The Tension of Disagreement

It’s no news to parents that enforcing our expectations and boundaries always comes at the cost of connectedness with our kids. In the last few years, our daughter’s reactions to some of our decisions have prompted tearful, hard conversations. Our connection with her was weakened by the tension of constantly being in disagreement with her. My husband and I are still in the middle of parenting our teenager and pre-teens, so we are no experts, and we definitely don’t have the wisdom of hindsight. But here are some practical ways in which we made the effort to keep connected with our teenager as we held fast to our convictions:


Have we listened to our teen’s specific reasons for disliking particular social situations? Bear in mind that digging down deep is probably hard for your teen. Even if she wants to tell you how she feels and why, she may not have the words. It helped to begin with “multiple choice” suggestions (listing some common emotions, such as embarrassment, irritation, fear, etc), then following up with probing the “why”. 


In light of her reasons, are there any reasonable actions we can take to make those social situations more comfortable for her? Any step, ranging from getting her to the hairdresser because she hates her hair, to letting her youth group leader know she is mortified at getting singled out in games, can show her that we are in her corner. 

Communicate Love:

How are we expressing our love in ways our teen understands? What communicated our love effectively to our other kids was sometimes the opposite of what our introverted daughter wanted. I’m learning that side-by-side time, rather than face-to-face, is gold currency when it comes to teens who don’t enjoy talking a whole lot. Oh, and getting their favorite snacks.


Pray for wisdom, pray for the words to say, pray for courage, pray for strength, pray for the Spirit to do his heart-work of convicting sin and making beautiful the good. Paul Miller says prayer is “acknowledged helplessness.” In prayer we remember how desperate we are for grace and who’s really in control. I can’t think of a more practical and absolutely necessary action we could ever take as parents.

Shelter in Jesus

A few years ago it felt like we were launched into a strange new world of parenting with our daughter’s anxieties over social settings. In every decision we had no choice but to trust God because we had no expertise of our own to draw from. We learned God’s faithfulness firsthand as we saw how he made good on his promises, giving us the specific wisdom, strength, and courage we asked for. Sometimes we didn’t realize it was his grace until we looked for it later. 

God is still in the middle of answering our prayers, but our daughter has come a long way. By God’s grace, she sees our love. We thank him for her growing capacity to be uncomfortable, and her sweet obedience to us. We are enjoying this gift of a season of peace as a family and can sense God’s goodness with us.

All of us face all kinds of unexpected storms in our parenting journey. Sometimes we feel so tired, we also want to wrap ourselves in oversized fuzzy loungewear, block our ears to the world, and hide. 

But we and our teens can both find a safe shelter in Jesus’s promise to always be with us. He is so close that he lives in us (Gal 2:20). Not only are we never alone, we have everything we could ever need in him who is in us (Phil 4:10). When we remember that, the storms don’t look quite as scary anymore. We can wade into the water with our introverted teens.

For more gospel-centered parenting resources, check out our current Rooted Parent Podcast season: Parenting, Technology, and the Truth. 

Connie was born in Hong Kong and has lived in Alberta, Canada since she was 6 years old. She has served in youth ministry for over 10 years and is a leader in the college fellowship at her church in Edmonton. She also works with a Guatemalan missions organization. Connie enjoys warm weather, her husband’s cooking, and chatting with friends over a hot cup of tea. She and her husband Chris have 1 teenager, 2 kids and a ridiculous number of houseplants.

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