Privacy, Please

Christmas break is in its second week; have you seen your teen around lately?

A friend said it well: “It’s like they’re your best buddy and want to tell you everything, and then one day they just disappear into their rooms and don’t want to be around you anymore!”

Why do some teens and pre-teens hibernate in their rooms and seem to shun contact with the family?  Sometimes it’s a personality issue.  Introverted teens who have spent the school day surrounded by dozens (or hundreds) of other people may need the time alone to recharge.

Sometimes it’s because privacy is something new and worthy of exploring.  Perhaps a teen no longer has to share a bedroom, or a wise parent has allowed “privacy hours” when siblings aren’t allowed to disturb.  Teens relish time to themselves, because they have the chance to think deep thoughts (or to wallow in their angst).

Teens with creative gifts can be insecure about their unfinished music-art-writing projects and will be irate if they’re interrupted in the middle of their masterpieces.  Those who are involved in relationships may be embarrassed to have their words of endearment (or their giggles) overheard by others who might tease them.  Conscientious students may need the peace and quiet for finishing homework.

But too much privacy can be a problem if it allows a teen the freedom to make bad choices.  Parents need to establish rules about open bedroom doors vs. closed doors, about how much power teens have to keep out siblings, and about usage hours for phones and electronics.  Smart parents will not allow computers or video games in bedrooms, because they know monitoring their use is almost impossible.  (Smarter parents will confiscate cell phones at bedtime to prevent middle-of-the-night texting.)

If you’re concerned because your teen seems to be spending an unusual amount of time alone, find a good time to approach him (be sure to knock first) and casually ask if everything’s okay.  If you feel it’s important for him to spend at least some time with the family, be ready to negotiate how much time you expect, or what hours you’d like him to join the family.

If you’re not comfortable with her spending so much time behind closed doors, sit down with her and tell her there are some new house rules in effect.  Be prepared to justify your reasons and try to work toward agreement on when it’s okay to close the door and when it’s not.

Your goal is to acknowledge and accommodate your teen’s need for privacy while still encouraging (or insisting) on being part of the family.  Remember:  that which is forbidden becomes more desirable.  Don’t take your teen’s need for “alone time” as a sign of rejecting you; instead, see it as another phase of development, a step toward one day living away from the family.




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