What to Do About Preteens’ Messy Bedrooms

Does your preteen’s messy room drive you crazy? Believe it not, that mess is a necessary part of your child’s development.

If you have a child between 9 and 12, you may have noticed a few changes in their personal surroundings. For example, in one corner of their bedroom you may find their dolls or action figures, and above them a poster of their latest heart throb. In another, you’ll find last year’s birthday card plus their latest half finished craft project. In short, your preteen has likely become a clutter bug. Preteens are experts at saving every little memento of their young lives. While this space may seem like a mess to us, to our children it’s a shrine to all things that make them tick.

Parent educator Sheila Boyce says preteen bedrooms are often the first place which reflects the fact that “they’re developing their own sense of who they are. So all of their belongings, their pictures, notes from friends that are important to them are there, and parents need to respect that. Now that doesn’t mean leaving everything around the house, but in their room or special place.”

Boyce adds that preteens also “really need privacy. That’s something that is very important at that middle age. So don’t go through their things or take inventory of what’s being saved and what’s not.”

The best thing a parent can do during this time is respect their preteens space. That means not tossing out their little mementos because to you it looks like trash. Boyce says “it’s not respectful. Would you like someone to go through your purse and throw out what they think you don’t need? There can be standards in a household, but it’s important that you don’t say “right now, clean your room”. It needs to be agreed at an earlier time that by a certain time something has to happen.”

Preteens are experiencing a growing sense of independence and their bedroom is the one room in the house which shows that. As parents it’s wise to allow them this place where they feel secure to simply be themselves. So the next time your child puts the “do not enter” sign on the door, consider it your preteen’s way of saying, “I’m growing up and need a little of my own space to do this in.”


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.

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