If you’re the parent of a teenager, you’ve probably caught yourself lamenting over the fact that you never seem to see your child anymore…not because she’s out with friends, but because she’s spending time alone.
Teens love their privacy and during the adolescent years teens require a great deal of it. In fact, this need for privacy isn’t just normal, it’s necessary. Dr. Peter Marshall, child psychologist and author of Now I Know Why Tigers Eat Their Young explains “privacy’s important for teens partly because they need to separate. It’s tempting to think that they’re just goofing off, but they spend a large part of their time just thinking about things, trying to figure out who they are, who they want to become. There’s a lot of work for them to do, and they need some space to do it.”
Although it’s tempting to be constantly checking up on our children, Dr. Marshall says, “by and large, privacy should be respected. When young children are growing up, we don’t give them much privacy. We supervise them so carefully. We need to recognize that very soon teenagers are going to be out on their own and it’s healthy for them to be spending time on their own, thinking and planning.”
However, while privacy is important, if your teen has withdrawn completely from those around her, it may signal deeper troubles explains Dr. Allan Taggart, Director of Adolescent Medicine with the California Pacific Medical Center. “If a teen is spending periods of time completely by themselves in their room, without contact with the family, without contact with their usual friends and associations, this could indicate an extreme situation where there could be some depression.”
If you are concerned that your child is withdrawing rather than just seeking a little time alone, then Dr. Taggart suggests “you very delicately try to approach your teen in terms of: is there anything bothering you, is everything okay, anything happen at school? With friends? If one still doesn’t get any response, then seeking some kind of professional help may be indicated.”
Overall, however, privacy with teens is just a normal part of their development. And as Dr. Marshall suggests, you may want to “try to learn how to enjoy the peace and quiet. If they’re up in their own room doing their own thing, just thinking, well, now you have the time to yourself, that before you often complained you never had.”
Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.