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Private! Do Not Enter! Keep Out!

Or your eight-year-old daughter starts shutting her door – leaving you and her brother pointedly out. The young child who used to run naked through the house now yelps if seen in a bath towel.

All of a sudden your school-aged child wants privacy. Don’t take it personally. This is a perfectly normal phase in your child’s development. As kids grow up, and begin to mature, they need more private time and a space to call their own. This is a natural and necessary phase for your children to separate further from you and become increasingly independent. But it helps to set up a few ground rules.

Don’t let your child’s bedroom become a battleground over territory. Establish that parents still have the right to enter, after knocking of course. Ask that your child respect your closed door the same way.

Maybe nothing. Or not. It’s important for you to keep the lines of communication open with your child so you know the difference. Make a nightly habit of dropping in for friendly bedside chats about your child’s day.

Watch out for increased moodiness or if the child starts becoming too solitary and avoids other members of the family. That could signal serious problems requiring your help or possibly professional counselling.

You don’t need to provide a private entertainment centre. Resist requests for a TV or computer in the child’s room. A surprising number of school-aged children have them. Then television becomes isolating rather than a shared family experience. Your school-aged child is still too young to watch TV programs without your knowing what he or she is viewing. An adult is often needed to discuss the content and provide interpretation.

For safety reasons, it’s important to know what kids are doing online. Station the family computer in a shared space where you can be aware of your child’s online activities and monitor them.

With increased privacy comes responsibility. Agree on some basic rules together, such as cleaning up crumbs and bringing out dishes if the child is allowed to eat in the room. If the child has friends over, decide in advance if the door stays open or closed. This depends on your level of trust in the child, which should be earned.

When kids share a room, some conflict is inevitable. You can minimize it by providing a private territory, such as a desk, for each. And clearly assigning separate shelves and storage. One child should not have the right to keep the other out but rules about respecting the other’s activities may need to be negotiated.

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