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Kids' Privacy

Understanding the Importance Of Kids And Their Privacy

Question:

My child complains that he doesn't get any privacy. He doesn't want us to walk into his room any time we want to, and has even asked for a lock on his door.

Think about it:

As children grow, many start to feel a need for a private space. This is a normal part of development. Your child's right to privacy, though, should be earned by the demonstration of trustworthiness and responsibility.

Set clear rules:

This is a good time to discuss the rules you feel are important regarding privacy. It's okay that everyone in the family has to ask before going into another's dresser drawers, or to knock to enter each other's rooms. Children, however, must be taught to ask, "Who is it?" and if the answer is Mom or Dad, they need to say, "Come in." Don't allow your child to say, "I'm busy," or some such answer. You are knocking as a courtesy, not to gain permission to enter. (In reverse, however, they ARE asking to gain permission to enter a parent's room. This is one of those times when what's good for the goose is not good for the little gander.)

Help them grow up:

Many children begin to assert their developmental independence by desiring more authority over their bedroom, which they perceive as the only part of the house that is truly theirs. If you have a basically responsible child, it's okay to turn over his bedroom to him, with a series of clear rules. These rules should cover housekeeping issues, design issues (how you feel about posters on the wall, etc.), rules about food in the room, how often it must be vacuumed and the sheets changed. Let your child know that he can earn the privacy in his room by showing that he is responsible enough to follow the rules. If a child abuses this trust by doing things in his room that violate your house rules (such as playing with matches, or eating treats after you have said no), then let him know the door must remain open until he has earned the privilege of privacy once again. If your child continues to break the rules, simply remove the door from the hinges, store it in the garage, and set a time frame for the following of rules that will result in the re-installment of the door.

What's really happening?

Explore the reasons your child is wanting more privacy. Is this just normal development, or does he have something he's trying to hide? Most likely, if the reason is the latter, his behavior will appear secretive in other ways, too. He may make whispered phone calls, or answer questions about what he's up to in vague, disjointed ways. If so, try to get information by asking direct questions. Maybe he's planning a surprise, or spending time reading a book such as, "What's Happening to My Body." It's also possible that your child has discovered masturbation. If you talk with your child and aren't satisfied with the answers you get, it's time to talk to a family counselor or other professional.

Special Note:

If your child is spending excessive time alone, or is displaying other unusual behaviors, such as constant moodiness, anger or secretiveness, please talk to a family counselor about your concerns.

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