Every door is locked. The vibration of your feet in the hall near the bathroom yields a frantic, "Don't come in!" When you scan a scrap of paper to see whose it is, your teen says, "That's mine! Don't read it!"
You've entered the privacy zone.
The zone is a scary place for parents. Your child, who was once unhindered and free, is now guarded and private. The child who shared every detail of his life is now holding back. As the parent, you understand that his body is maturing, his emotions are changing. You want to trust your child with these changes, but the what if's feel overwhelming. What if he is locking his door so he can hide drug paraphernalia? What if his notes to a friend talk about the ways he can cheat on a test? What if he's surfing the 'Net for pornography? Rest assured that his need for privacy and your fears are both normal feelings and you can maneuver safely through these changes.
Begin by empathizing. Set aside some time to talk with your child and explain that you understand that his changing body, new feelings, and new status as a teenager are creating different needs such as independence and privacy. Tell him you still need him to be accountable to you. Together with your child, establish boundaries that allow both of you to get your needs met. For example:
? Allow your child privacy to change and shower, but ask that the doors remain unlocked.
? Ask your child to tell you about the topics of his notes from friends, but let him keep the details private.
? Respect his need to choose his own friends, but ask that you get a chance to meet them.
? Permit the use of the Internet, but insist that he not go to sites that hurt people, show naked people, or invade people's privacy.
? Let your child have time alone as long as he's finished homework and chores.
? Respect alone time with friends, but explain that you will check in to see that others are abiding by house rules.
Gently explain that privacy is a privilege not a right. If your child handles the privilege responsibly, he will earn more of it. If he abuses it, he loses it.
There is nothing wrong with privacy. Jesus often took time away from the crowd to gather his feelings and pray (Mark 6:46; Matthew 26:36). With the wisdom God imparts, ask him to guide you and your child through this new stage of life.
Authors (and parents) David and Claudia Arp equate parenting a 13-year-old to hugging a cactus. In their book Suddenly They're 13 (Zondervan), the Arps outline the four "R's" of parenting your cactus: Regroup: Evaluate your relationship; Release: Design your own plan for letting go; Relate: Get off the lecture circuit; and Relax: Trust God for what you don't see. Practice these principles, and you might find your child's teen years a little easier to manage.
Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
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