Children need space
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DO you think it is okay to walk into a teenager (13-year-old)’s bedroom without knocking? And, at what age should you give a child privacy? Parents usually believe that they ‘made’ the child, so they have the right to barge into their bedroom, or the bathroom while they are bathing. Some adults support this behaviour by arguing, ‘Is me change your pampers and bathe you when you were small,’ or ‘What you got to hide?’

We are all aware that ‘After one time is a next’, meaning, things change and seldom remain the same. For instance, small children do not mind running around naked or care about who sees them in this natural state. On the other hand, older children are more sophisticated and conscious of their changing bodies and minds; they need more support and guidance from their adult carers. Grown-ups, therefore, must anticipate what children need and learn to adjust accordingly.

To receive the proper support from parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, anyone who works with young people needs to be clued in, approachable and open; they need to be non-judgemental and not the type who ridicules or makes fun of others, or laughs at another’s expense. Children have questions, insecurities and fears; they need reliable, trustworthy adults to whom they can relate.

Children from the age of nine, considered pre-teen, would need some privacy. As children grow, they naturally gravitate to ‘alone time’; unlike when they were small, they do not share all their ideas and curiosities, or ask their parents a load of questions. They are happy to keep thoughts to themselves, do their own problem-solving, or share them with their peers.

Developing these skills is natural; parents should be pleased to witness the first sparks of independence in their youngsters. But their brains are still developing, and they may do unfavourable things without thinking them through. Parents must, therefore, stay in touch with their children; their input is still necessary. By monitoring what children are doing, asking questions and showing concern, parents can intercept and steer their child away from the likelihood of danger.

A two-way trust system is an excellent way to build communication skills, which are lacking in many parent/child relationships. Children should be able to trust their parents to be thoughtful, and make good decisions for them as they grow. When children know their parents have their back, without doubt, they can move through every stage of development comfortably. In turn, parents should be able to trust their children to do the right things, and live by the morals and principles they have instilled in them.

Of course, it is not a perfect world, and with children being children, things will go awry from time to time; this, too, is natural. Still, logically, two-way trust, openness, and reliability are the best relationship traits to establish between children and adults.

So, if a ten-year-old boy grabs his towel to cover his lower half when his parent enters the room, it should be acknowledged, and next time, the parent should knock or ask, ‘Can I come? Are you decent?’ Just like two-way trust, there is two-way respect. When adults respect children, e.g. their views, privacy, and contributions, and treat them in the manner they deserve, it lifts a child’s self-esteem and confidence.

Some people still think the old-fashioned way; if you show respect to a child, they will take their eyes and pass you. But respect is about fairness, discretion and assertiveness towards the child. Many parents still bully, threaten and force children to do things, with little or no regard for how the child thinks or feels. The old-time theory is that, I am the adult and you are the child, I know best, and you have no say.

When given a chance, children can think, feel and say how they are affected by what happens to them. It is parents who sometimes cannot deal with the truth. All growing children require personal space. They like to try out new ideas and interests, explore, and find out what kind of person they would like to become – this is just one area of their development that occurs naturally, and parents are not at the forefront of how it unfolds.

The length of time children spends alone and what they are likely to be doing also need to be monitored. Too much ‘alone time’ could be a red flag that something is untoward. Listening to music, playing video games, talking on the phone, drawing, writing, or other creative pastimes are acceptable. In other words, parents should have a reasonable idea of what their child is ‘into’ and keep an eye out for changes.

Asking your child questions is not an invasion of privacy, neither is monitoring their internet use, phone calls or text messages, although parents should do this tactfully. Parents do not need to be private detectives or investigators, forever checking up on their off-springs every move. They should, however, have an overall idea of where their child goes, what their child does and who they know.

Parents should avoid sneakily going through their children’s phones and drawers; listening in on their phone calls; reading their diary, text messages or emails without permission or their child’s prior knowledge. The best type of monitoring is low-key and based on routine and trust. Overall, for parents, the optimal goal should be to stay connected with children in a particular way that keeps them connected with the adults in their lives.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at

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