Ask the Expert: “My Teenage Daughter is Always in her Room”
Expert: Jennifer Powell-Lunder Psy.D., – is a clinical psychologist, author of Teenage as a Second Language and creator of ItsATweensLife.com.
Question: Several months ago, our 13-year-old daughter started spending a lot of time in her bedroom. She’s asked everyone in our family to always knock on the door before entering. This is new to us. Should we be worried she wants so much privacy? And how much is too much? Thanks.
Thirteen is the start of the teen years. It seems to be a year of awakening and exploration for many teens. The changes in behavior and attitude can seem so drastic for some teens it is hard for parents to believe that only a year has passed since the pre-teen tweenage 12. The transition from tween to teenhood on average begins earlier for girls than boys.
It is understandable that you have concerns about the sudden changes a 13-year-old may exhibit. In this particular instance it sounds as if this little gem is trying to assert more independence and control over her life. Privacy can become particularly more important as young teens note the physical changes going on inside them.
In reality however, we could speculate forever about why your teenage daughter is suddenly seeking more privacy. The best way to garner the information is simply to ask the question directly. I would advise you to say something like this:
“We noticed that you are closing your door more often and requesting more privacy. We just wanted to check in and make sure everything is okay.”
You should be prepared for an answer that could range from a polite, honest explanation to an annoyed, offended rant that provides little information. Thirteen is a tough age. Attitude is not uncommon.
The answer to this question also requires more questions. For example, does your teenage daughter have a computer, tablet, or phone in her room? Is she busy conversing with friends or listening to music and therefore does not want any intrusions?
The true question you need to be asking is whether your daughter is requesting more privacy and alone time because she is engaging in activities in her room by herself or with others (e.g. video chatting, IM’ing, social networking) or is she simply looking to be isolated and left alone? The former certainly requires monitoring. The latter could be concerning if there are other sudden changes that have been noted, for example, if your daughter’s eating and sleeping habits have changed drastically, her desire to interact with others including friends has decreased or her interest in activities she previously enjoyed has diminished. She may be experiencing stress, anxiety or symptoms of depression. A professional evaluation is suggested if this is the situation.
Teenagers require rules and boundaries. The request for more privacy is fine as long as it is clear why she wants to be left alone, and specifically what is it that she is doing in her room. If she refuses to offer an answer, and there is nothing in her room that could potentially cause harm, you should work with her to establish an appropriate boundary. For example, as long as your daughter is following through on her responsibilities of daily living such as completing homework on time, coming to the table for family meals, keeping up with daily hygiene and following through on daily chores, there is no harm in allowing her more private time and respecting her request that those who are about to enter knock. This request may simply be an example of a young teen that is looking to feel more empowered and in control of her life. A little privacy is not too much to ask.