As your child becomes a teenager, he or she will want more privacy, independence, and in turn, more distance from you. While it’s difficult to accept that your child is becoming an adult, it’s important to remember that one of a parent’s main responsibilities is to prepare their child for adulthood. In doing so, you must foster that independence and provide privacy for your teen.
At the same time, you still need to be an active and engaged parent. Find a balance between guiding your teenager to make good decisions while providing and respecting his or her privacy.
If you haven’t had reasons to distrust your teenager, start a conversation with him or her. Praise your teen for who he or she has become: smart, kind, caring, sympathetic, happy, a good friend, a good teammate, a good brother or sister. Explain that for those reasons, you trust him or her and want to reward your teen with more privacy.
In your conversation, ask what kind of privacy your teen wants. Is it more time with friends, more alone time, extra time to sleep in on weekends? See if the two of you (and your parenting partner) can come to a compromise. Maybe it’s an extended curfew every once in a while, or the family goes to dinner once a week and gives your teen some peace and quiet at home.
If you proactively acknowledge and reward the trust you have for your teenager, he or she is more likely to continue to keep up the good behavior, and you can grant him or her privacy as needed.
Your teen likely doesn’t want you going in his or her room and looking through drawers, phones, diaries, etc. And do you really want to be snooping around his or her room? Think about how you would feel if your teen was peering around your room.
Establish ground rules with your teen. For example, you won’t go in your teenager’s room if he or she does his or her own laundry. But if your teen doesn’t want to do the laundry, then you will need to go into his or her room to collect laundry and change sheets. That doesn’t mean you will snoop, but you will need to go in and out of the room for laundry purposes.
Privacy also works as a great incentive for increased study time. If your teen is struggling with certain subjects in school, ask him or her to spend additional time—with your help, after-school assistance, or tutoring—on that subject. If the next test or report card produces a better grade, reward your teenager with more privacy, provided he or she keeps up the additional study time.
If you suspect your teenager is engaging in behaviors that you don’t approve of, address your concerns by speaking directly with your teen. You know your child and can probably tell if he or she is being honest with you.
If there are behavioral issues you need to address, then explain that you own the house and have the right to ensure illegal activities aren’t happening on your property. Sometimes underage drinking and drug use are a concern, and you might need to search your teen’s room for those items. If it gets to that point, it is important that you explain why you must search the room and restrict their privacy, as well as what the repercussions are not only for your teenager, but for you and the rest of the family.
If you feel the behavior is at a point where you can still offer your teen an incentive to stop, do so. The incentive should involve increased privacy, which you can grant once you feel you have rebuilt the trust between the two of you.
For a deeper discussion on a parent’s rights to search and a child’s right to privacy, read this article from Empowering Parents.