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Teen Privacy Needs

by Gail Sessoms, studioD

The teenager’s need for privacy may seem like he is exhibiting excessive secrecy or avoiding family members. This strange new person who also might be hostile and cranky is working through intense intellectual and emotional development while undergoing tremendous physical changes. Your adolescent may be less affectionate and engaged, but his emotions and behavior change quickly and often during these years. The constant for teens during these years is the need to separate from parents and develop their own personalities, both of which require a lot of privacy.

Adolescent Development

Your teen’s need for privacy is a positive development that is necessary for her continued personal growth. The parenting challenge is to respect that privacy while reserving the right to violate it when necessary. Be prepared for mixed messages from a sometimes needy teenager who pushes you away when you try to help her. She may be moody, lacking in confidence, sad or stressed. While your instinct as a parent is to help her work these changes, she is trying to separate, develop an individual personality and learn to make her own choices. Although teens are working on building independence, parents play an important role by giving them the freedom to grow while remaining near enough for intervention when needed.

Teens and Privacy

While teens become less combative with parents during the 15- to-17-year-old period, the need for privacy often continues unabated and teens continue to spend more time alone or with friends. Your teenager might need a little alone time each day. Another teen might stay in his room more than usual to read, sleep or talk on the phone more behind the closed door. Teens often begin to keep journals or diaries, hide some of their possessions or behave secretly about their involvement in social networking. Your teen might stop talking to you about his friends and activities, school work or health issues.

Approaches to Privacy

Families approach privacy issues differently. Your teen should expect to have her privacy needs met within the limits of your family’s approach to privacy. Dr. Terry Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist in an interview with Georgia Family Magazine, believes that the level of consistent responsibility and honesty your teen shows should determine the amount of privacy you allow her. Teens need parents to establish and enforce clear boundaries. Define for your teen what privacy means in your family and explain how it fits within your rules. For instance, you might choose to protect against too much privacy by requiring that computers are used in open spaces like the family room.

When to Intervene or Invade

Experts caution parents against snooping in their teen’s belongings, reading mail, listening in on phone calls or invading their privacy in other ways. However, a strong suspicion that something is wrong is reason enough to break the no-snooping rule. A parent who sees evidence of drug use, eating disorders, serious depression or mental illness, involvement in abusive relationships or poor academic performance have a right and a responsibility to intervene by asking questions and, if necessary, to invade a teen’s privacy, according to Psychology Today.Teens should understand that all bets are off if they violate your trust, and that you will do what is necessary to protect them.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

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