Introverted child (Courtesy of Working Mother)

1) Honor your kid.Don’t just accept your child for who she is; treasure her. So long as they’re in settings that suit them, introverted children can be kind, thoughtful, focused and very interesting company.

2) Go slow—but go. If your child is reluctant to try new things or meet new people, expose him to new experiences gradually. Don’t let him opt out, but do respect his limits, even when they seem extreme. Inch together toward the thing he’s wary of. When he takes social risks, let him know you admire his efforts: “I saw you go up to those new kids yesterday. I know that can be difficult, and I’m proud of you.” When he ends up enjoying things he thought he wouldn’t like or was initially scared of, point that out to him. Eventually he’ll learn to self-regulate feelings of wariness.

Video: Introverts and extroverts have different brains

3) Avoid labels.If your child is shy, don’t let her hear you call her that. She’ll start to experience her nervousness as a fixed trait rather than as an emotion she can learn to control. She also knows full well that “shy” is a usually a criticism in our society. When others call her shy in front of her (and they will), reframe it lightly, saying things like “Sophie likes to take her time to suss out new situations.”

4) Don’t project. If you’re an introvert, try not to project your own history onto your child. Your introversion may have caused you pain when you were younger. Don’t assume that this will be the case for your child, or that he won’t be able to handle the occasional sling or arrow. He can handle it, and he can thrive. The best thing to do for him is take joy in his wonderful qualities, have confidence that those qualities will carry him far, and teach him skills for handling challenging aspects of his nature.

5) Water your “orchid.” If your child is “highly sensitive”—meaning sensitive to lights, sounds, emotional experiences or new situations— she might be what’s known as an “orchid child.” This term, from a theory now being investigated by researchers, holds that while many children are like dandelions, able to thrive in just about any environment, others are more like orchids: they wilt easily, but given a nurturing environment, they can actually do better than dandelion children. They’re often healthier, have better grades and enjoy stronger relationships.

6) Cultivate passions. Introverted kids usually have the capacity to develop great passions. Be alert to your child’s enthusiasms and cultivate them. Intense engagement in an activity is a proven route to happiness, and a well-developed talent is a great source of confidence. Traditional childhood activities such as soccer and piano may work well for some kids, but don’t forget to look off the beaten path. It could be creative writing, for example, that stimulates your child. So try to follow her lead.

Illustration by Leigh Wells

Susan Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. A former lawyer and negotiations consultant, and a self-described introvert, she lives in the Hudson River Valley with her husband and two sons. You can see her Ted Talk on the power of introverts here.