Does your teen spend too much time alone in her room, with her door shut? More often than not, it’s normal teen behaviour.
When it comes to parenting teenagers, you love your (sometimes difficult) teen and appreciate her growing need for privacy, but when your kid starts spending a lot of time alone in her bedroom with the door shut, it’s only natural to worry that something might be wrong.
While you’re aware it’s totally normal for teens to want privacy, a million questions to ask start racing through your anxious brain: What is she doing in there? You want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to raise a happy, healthy, and emotionally intelligent teen. But knowing how to be a good and attentive parent can be a difficult task… especially when she spends most of her time in her bedroom, out of your sight.
You want to trust her, but it’s hard not to worry when your teen’s bedroom door is always closed and she spends all her time alone.
Is social isolation a red flag?
Social isolation and withdrawal are warning signs for many teenage problems, so how can parents know when to respect their teen’s privacy and when they should worry? First, it’s important to realise that a teenager’s number one job is to figure out who they are and separate their identity from their parents.
Shutting the bedroom door and spending more time alone are normal and vital parts of accomplishing this task. You’ll know your child has entered this stage if they enjoy pointing out your flaws, frequently say you’re wrong, or critique the way you dress, speak or behave.
Although it can be annoying to live with such negative scrutiny, it’s a normal and important part of how teenagers define themselves as they separate from you, develop their own opinions and grow into mature adults. If your teen is keeping up with school work, friendships, chores, and personal hygiene, then she has earned her privacy – and it’s your job to trust that everything is OK. Granted, that’s no easy task given what you watch the news and hear from other parents, but try and avoid jumping to conclusions and taking action until you see actual problematic behaviours from your teen.
5 Parenting questions to ask yourself
Here are five parenting questions to ask yourself that will help determine if your teen’s need for privacy is normal, or if the amount of time she spends alone is a red flag:
- Does your teen leave her bedroom without you asking her to?
The amount of private time your teen needs can vary based on where she falls on the introversion/extroversion scale. For example, introverted kids may need days of solitude before they feel like socialising again. Take note of when your teen leaves her room to understand how much alone time she needs to feel like herself again. Trust that she’s taking care of herself, but keep an eye out to make sure her other behaviours are healthy, too.
- Does your teen seem happy, sad, or irritated after leaving her room?
Is your teen moody and morose? Then whatever she was doing in her room behind closed doors wasn’t helpful. Feel free to point it out! Is she glassy-eyed and zombie-like? This can be a result of too much screen time, too much sugar, or other brain-numbing activities. If the time she spends alone in her room is good for her, it will show in a positive way. Help your teen by verbalising what you observe in her mood: “I notice that when you come out of your room, you seem cranky and irritable, but when you come home from dancing you seem happy and relaxed.” This can teach your teen to reflect and make better choices without telling them what to do.
- Are your teen’s friends worried about her?
If you aren’t sure if your teen’s isolation is healthy or problematic, ask her friends if they have any concerns about her. Teens open up to their friends more easily than their parents, so if something’s really wrong, they might know about it. Many teenagers don’t know how to handle it when a friend posts photos of themselves cutting, doing drugs, or talking about suicide – so they may not speak up if they see it. Give your teen’s friends permission to inform you if they have any concerns, and tell them you will protect their anonymity.
- Have you noticed a sudden drop in grades or a change in her friends, appetite, or sleep habits?
It might seem like your teen’s door is always closed, and that may worry you, but it isn’t necessarily a warning sign that something is wrong. Seeing a sudden drop in grades, appetite, sleep, or friendships is a stronger indicator of a problem that needs addressing. Although teens may want to blame school, teachers, peers, or even you for their problems, these sudden changes are often a result of how they’re thinking or feeling about things. Start by helping your teen get back to basics with healthy sleep and eating habits. Then, provide opportunities for your teen to learn how to manage his mind and emotions with stress reduction and life coaching skills. Worrying feels like good parenting, but it’s annoying to teens and makes them want to keep things from you
- Is your teen socialising online?
Your worries about social isolation may be put to rest if your teenager is doing homework with her friends over FaceTime or playing online games against live opponents. Instead of violating her trust by snooping, try simply asking your teen, “What do you do up there in your room?” You might be surprised by what she shares. Or, try being open about the top five things you do on your cell phone, and ask her to share the same.
How to nurture your relationship with your teen
If you want a strong relationship with your teen, leave your worries behind and keep the conversation friendly, not accusatory As you learn how to place even more trust in your teen and let go of your worry, make sure to carve out fun, relaxing time with them, too.
Keep up with family dinners and make time for game nights, shopping, or camping trips. Finding things teens enjoy doing with their parents can be challenging, but it helps you stay close during this natural separation process.
Worrying feels like good parenting, but it’s annoying to teens and makes them want to keep things from you. Instead, listen to your teen and trust that your instinctual parenting intelligence will help you rise to any occasion that comes your way.