Slumber Parties and Kryptonite: Simple Ways to Explain Introversion to Children

My nine-year old daughter is hurt because I don’t want her by my side every second of the day. She is happiest interacting with others. My thirteen year old son doesn’t understand the word energy when I tell him I get energy from solitude. He asks if I mean excitement or physical energy. For the last few years I’ve searched for child-friendly ways to validate introversion and explain how it feels.

I finally landed on a couple of analogies that feel good.

Don’t Go to Sleep Ever

slumberparty-jumping

I had my daughter imagine herself at her best friend’s house for a sleepover.  Imagine there are several girls there and they decide they are going to stay up all night because it will be so cool to tell everyone they didn’t go to sleep at all.  Now picture it’s 3:30AM and your eyes are getting heavy.  All the lights are on in the room and a Spongebob marathon is playing loudly on the TV. Your friend, Gretchen, keeps poking you and jabbering in your ear.  You snap at her to leave you alone because the lack of sleep has made you a little cranky. You love Gretchen and want to hear all the funny stories she is telling, but you are dying to close your eyes for a while. You don’t want to be the loser who falls asleep first but your sleeping bag is so cozy and the pillow feels so soft under your head. You feel a deep need to rest, to get away from the voices, bright lights and blaring television.

That is how introversion feels when the need for alone time is high. There is an intense desire to retreat to a quiet space in order to rest and regain your ability to play and talk with your people.  Solitude would feel so good.  It would put you in touch with your dreams and bring you back to your happy self.

Stimulation and Interactions Draining Your Super Powers

kryptonite

Remember Superman wilting in the presence of the glowing green kryptonite rock? His broad chest slumping and his energy draining the longer he is subjected to the mysterious mineral. He can’t think of anything other than getting free of the debilitating material.

Son, this is how I feel at the end of summer when you and your siblings have been home every day or even after ONE particularly busy day of people and activities, like when we go to a water park or when all of you have friends over for the afternoon. I slump from the constant interactions and the need to be fully alert.  I will feel a deep need to sit down away from all the activity. I’ll resist taking on any more activities for the day. My brain won’t work quickly or at full power. I may speak slower and say, I don’t know, often. My personality may even change a little to a more short-tempered being.

If the environment is especially disagreeable or negative it is like being placed in a room with a gigantic kryptonite rock versus a small one.  Negativity, fighting and conflict drain my energy faster.

The presence of people (like kryptonite) zaps my physical and mental energy. By energy I mean the ability to be active and the ability to think clearly.

How to return to my full strength? Solitude and/or low stimulation. Time away from the great green rocks of busy-ness and human interaction.

How Awareness Helps Your Child Evolve

Awareness of the introvert experience is key in order to avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  My belief is the sooner the better for sharing information.  If children understand that your grumpiness isn’t all their fault and they know that you will be yourself again after a break, they are less likely to internalize your reactions and more likely to be sensitive to their own needs and those of others.

How do you explain your introverted needs to your children?  

Other posts that help explain introversion:

Introverts Explained: Why We Love You But Need to Get Away From You

There’s Nothing Wrong with You. You’re an Introvert.

Video: The Space We Need: An Introvert Wakes Up, Slows Down and Starts Living According to Her True Nature

Confessions of an Introverted Parent

When Parenting Overwhelms

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10 Comments

  1. You Don’t Have a Bubbly Personality? You’re not a High Energy Mom? You’re Still Worth Knowing | space2live
    July 11, 2014

    […] Slumber Parties and Kryptonite: Simple Ways to Explain Introversion to Children […]

    Reply
  2. Doug Toft
    August 31, 2013

    Also, these analogies would work for many adults. Brilliant.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      August 31, 2013

      I thought so too! Thanks Doug for seeing more than what’s stated.:)

      Reply
  3. Laura
    August 30, 2013

    I enjoyed your analogies for your children – I am thinking that they understood. I am not sure how old your children are, I have three teenagers. They used to think I actually was Superman ( Superwoman ) and as the years progressed I met with some serious challenges that greatly undermined my energy and capacity to reach out to them and the other loved ones in my life ( part of my nature ). Interestingly, until I discovered your post in recent weeks, I thought that I just didn’t care about people anymore, or my own dreams. I battled with feeling selfish for needing so much down time. My teenagers did not understand my need for it and tried to make me feel badly for it. I am still uncertain if it is “introversion” or “burnout” because I didn’t pay heed to my need to introvert for the past many years. Do you have any thoughts on this? I LOVE YOUR POST! I love your writing! ( – : Thank you, Laura

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      August 31, 2013

      I hear you and understand Laura. I have been in your shoes. I’ve been to the point where I thought I was depressed or adrenally fatigued or going to need some anxiety medication. It’s very difficult to get others on board with your need for downtime. They’d prefer you serve them, of course;). I HAVE felt bad or selfish for taking time for myself. I still do, often. My children see go-getters, achievers and quick-talking people as the ideal. They also see their friend’s parents killing themselves for their kids (Superparents are buggers;). I know it goes against the norm but I think caring for yourself should be priority one so that you have something to give others.
      You have to keep your own internal light burning. Burnout is possible for anyone. Introverts tend to use up their energy very quickly especially when constantly interacting with others. In order to figure out the origin of your energy depletion, notice when you feel most alive or enthusiastic. When you are alone or when you are with others? Introverts are energized in solitude, as I’m sure you’ve read.
      As soon as you can, get time to yourself, an afternoon, evening or whole day. It’s vital.

      A hug and peace to you.

      Reply
      • Laura
        September 4, 2013

        Thank you, Brenda! Thank you for your reply and for sharing your thoughts. You know, I used to be what others would consider a success…and a most recent epiphany ( of many lately ), is that as I gave over more and more of my time, and agenda to others, I lost more and more of myself and what allowed my success in the first place. I once had this uncanny ability to focus and work for hours, days, weeks at a time, entrenched in a project until complete. Oddly now, I feel ADD, like a hamster spinning on a wheel, like my ability to focus on one thing at a time has disappeared forever. I miss it. I had read years ago, in Scott Peck’s THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED, that we needed to learn to “bracket” our own stuff to turn and be fully present to others asking for our ear/heart/hands. I became very good at bracketing as a parent and teacher, and honest to goodness, I think that after 20 years of bracketing ( derailing ) my train of thought and actions for others, I don’t know how to get back on my own track. Your writings have reminded me of the importance of my solo world – I have always loved it. I will not feel guilty for seeking it out again. ( =

        Reply
        • Brenda Knowles
          September 5, 2013

          I was just talking about The Road Less Traveled with a friend. The part I remember is his encouragement of delayed gratification. Perhaps this guy was too big on putting your wants and desires aside? I agree we need to help and listen to others when we can, but I think we can do that on a deeper more caring level if we’ve filled ourselves up first. We have more to give then. I have found in solitude I often think of others and nice things I could do for them. If I am perpetually rushing from one task to the next I don’t have time to think about generous actions.

          For you, I suggest getting away to a peaceful place where you can focus on projects that make you expand. Take walks. Read. Sit and look at the horizon. Go inward. You need to get clear and hear your inner voice again. It will come back and you will feel centered again. Beware, it is often an ebb and flow. It is not easy to maintain a constant state of flow, but it’s within reach.;)

          Revel in your solo world!

          Reply
  4. Doug Toft (@dougtoft)
    August 30, 2013

    Courageous. This takes guts. Your children will get it. Eventually.

    Reply
  5. Ellen R.
    August 30, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this useful explanation of introversion. I will be sharing this with my grandchildren as they get old enough to understand it.

    Reply
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