If there’s one thing your introverted child would like for Christmas more than anything else in the whole world, it’s a room with a door that closes.

It’s not as simple as asking for one. And by the way, a closet will do and even a big box as you’ll see. That’s how strong the need is for an introvert to have a place of their own. Introverts are territorial because of their great need for personal space. It’s important to their sense of well being, their mental and emotional health.

If a child wants to go in their room and close the door, extroverted parents may interpret this behavior as rejection, or worse, being secretive and anti-social. They wonder, “What’s she hiding? What’s wrong with him? Why doesn’t s/he want to be part of the family?” These are legitimate concerns and since your child can’t answer, I’d like to explain for them.

There are two reasons, both healthy. One of the reasons is something few people know. Introverts give energy and extroverts receive energy. When introverts are out in the world, because they give energy to other people, they can be drained during the day. That person you see over there who’s the life of the party? He’s an extrovert and he would be drained if he had to be by himself tonight. The attention he’s getting nurtures him. He thrives on it. It fills him up and makes him feel he’s alive.

And who’s giving him that attention? Likely it’s an introvert.

Whenever you see a crowd of people, extroverts are receiving energy and introverts are giving energy. Introverts need to spend about half their time alone, to fill back up again. It’s not that we don’t love people!

However, there are many introverts who withdraw later in life because they have had such difficulty being understood and getting their needs met, they find it easier to “do without”. With your help, your introverted child can learn to identify his or her needs and ask for them. But first you must understood in order to give them the support they need.

Let’s think for a moment about your child’s school day. As much as fifty percent of the learning that’s done in lower school is how to become part of society, part of the group. Kids learn how to raise their hands, take turns, line up properly, wait their turn, sit still, use good manners, ask politely for what they want, listen to and follow instructions. These are social skills. They require interaction.

In addition, your child’s day can consist of walking to school with others, watching out for a younger sibling, riding a noisy crowded bus, classroom interaction with 20 to 40 other children, figuring out the omnipotent teacher and principal (in middle school, more than one), eating lunch in a big noisy cafeteria, dressing for gym in a crowded noisy locker room, participating in “teams” and getting the team spirit. After school there are other activities that require socializing, including private music lessons, Brownies and Cub Scouts and sports practice. Socializing is stressful to introverts and they receive no inherent rewards from it.

As your child gets older, there is pressure to join clubs, take part in extracurricular activities, become part of a clique or group, get dates, go to dances, volunteer or sing in the choir in spare time, join the church car wash on the weekends, spend time caring for aging relatives, etc..

Many children are assured that they will not be successful in life if they don’t get into the right college. They are told that this requires a resume full of activities that show “leadership ability”. The activities I’ve mentioned are hard wired for the pleasure and satisfaction of extroverts, who make up 60 to 75% of the school population (indeed of American society). They can be deadly to introverts. [See www.benizer.org on the cost of falsifying type]

If your child is introverted, he or she is in the minority and has the added stress of coping with a world set up by aliens! The ratio of extroverts to introverts is about three to one. It might help if you’re an extrovert to imagine yourself forced to spend a vacation on an island with no modern conveniences, no tv, no other people or animals, no electric lights, radios or passive entertainment. Does the thought drive you crazy? Then imagine being made to feel like there was something wrong with you because you couldn’t “cope” with this environment. Imagine being forced to learn “skills” to “succeed” on this island world, as if this were “the” world. Imagine having to do this for at least ten hours a day for the rest of your life.

A hermit’s existence is actually something that could make an introvert smile. “What so horrible about that?” we wonder. Extroverted babies move toward sound, light, objects and people. .Introverted babies move away from them. As they grow older, introverts are attracted to stress free environments such as … a room of their own where they can … minimize the things they find distracting … i.e., you guess it, close the door!

Lest you think for a moment that your child can’t succeed in this world being introverted, being just the way they are, here is a list of introverts who have made tremendous contributions and achieved great things by any standards, during many different time periods: Warren Buffett (the world’s richest man or greatest investor), Mother Theresa, Queen Elizabeth II, Jackie Kennedy, Michael Jordan, Michael Douglas, Steven Spielberg, Katherine Hepburn, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton and Peter the Great. If you would like to learn more, please visit my website. I have many inspirational articles about introverts who took the world on their own terms and were successful.

I’m afraid none of the activities I’ve mentioned for a typical school day are of any intrinsic value to introverts, although your child may very much enjoy learning subjects, playing a musical instrument or engaging in sports as an individual. Being required to give enormous amounts of energy to the socialization process, trying to be something s/he isn’t, leaves them little time for the things they do find valuable, such as quiet times, reading, walking, collecting things, becoming an expert at something, watching a video or DVD, browsing on the internet (the internet is an introvert’s heaven) or playing with pets.

The second reason for the closed door is because introverts focus and concentrate. That’s why we consider small talk, unnecessary socializing and group activities such a waste of time. We don’t benefit from the social aspect and on the other hand, it destroys our focus and concentration.

Some of us remember being forced by a teacher or by peer pressure to join a study group only to agonize through the hour of wasted chitchat before going home and beginning to “really study”. It’s like double jeopardy. To an introvert, most “group activities” and “study groups” are a mystery, if not to say a form of Medieval torture and we are doubly penalized by the time it wastes when we could be studying and the time we have to spend afterwards to make sure we learn the stuff our way.

I run polls on my website to gather information from real people about their introverted experience. Most of them comment on the exhaustion and hopelessness they felt during the school years. They found it almost impossible to keep up with the social demands of school and accomplish other things that they valued. It seemed they were working twice as hard just to stay in place. When your introverted child or teen returns home after days like this, they are exhausted.

If there is one symbol I could pick for the difference between extroverts and introverts, it is the closed door. This is something near and dear to the heart of every introvert that seems to strike terror in the heart of every extrovert.

What are we doing behind the closed door? We’re filling up with energy. You may find us lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, listening to the kind of music we like, thumbing through picture albums or collections, writing in our journal, browsing the internet or just rearranging and cleaning our room. We are enjoying some quiet time to ourselves. If we are interrupted, this adds more stress to the stress we’re trying to recover from because even when we’re relaxing, we are intense and focused. To an introvert, interruptions are stressful. We learn to cope with them as a reality but when we are exhausted, we need to set some limits. Children can’t do this without your help and support.

When I wrote about this on an introverts' forum, Shelley responded quickly, “Funny that you should mention [personal space]. I recall moving into a big closet in the room that my older sister and I shared so that I could
have my own private place. I had a bed made on the floor inside there with all the extra blankets and pillows in the house and then I'd go in there and shut the door. Sometimes I'd draw, sometimes I'd just take a nap. By the way, this was when I was grade school age.”

Another forum member replied, “I have closet envy We moved quite frequently when I was young, and not usually to places where I had a room of my own (really a room at all) until I was a teenager. The couch being my usual bed, you see. But I remember with delight dragging home a refrigerator box, cutting a little door and window, and hanging a night light on an extension cord through the "ceiling." My Mother, an introvert herself, must have understood, letting me keep the box for as long as we lived in that location.”

This Christmas, heck, this weekend, give your introverted kid the gift that keeps on giving … personal space. Be it a room of their own with a door that closes, a closet or a box, it’s the kindest thing you could do for the little one you love.

Author's Bio: 

Nancy R. Fenn is the IntrovertZCoach. Her mission in life is raising consciousness that introversion is a legitimate personality type.