It's true what they say, the older kids grow, the more complicated it is to deal with them. Before, when your baby cried, all you had to do was to feed him/her milk, change his/her diaper, or remove whatever it is that's causing him/her discomfort. When your child becomes a teenager, there are a lot more things that you should be concerned about. Primarily, it's about safety. What makes it difficult to keep your teenage child safe at this time is the issue of privacy.
Many teenagers desire to maintain independence and personal privacy. But when is it all right to cross your teen's privacy?
What is Invasion of Privacy for Teenagers?
Before a parent gets to know what line to cross in terms of privacy, one must first define what this means to your teenage child. Generally, it would mean staying off the teen's personal things including cell phone, journal/diary, computer, and practically everything inside his/her bedroom. In other words, a parent can't just jump into the child's bedroom and scour through his/her things the way a police officer with a search warrant does in a suspect's home.
What Situations Should Raise a Parent's Concern?
Changes in your teen's behavior such as isolation, withdrawal from activities he/she used to enjoy, vehement denial that there's anything wrong, and suspicious activities should raise a red flag. Don't be too quick to conclude that your teenage child has a drinking or drug problem. It may just be problems with school or personal issues. Maintaining close relationship with a teenager is important. If you're too caught up with your work to notice the little changes in your kid's behavior, you won't know there's a problem until it has already worsened.
What Should a Parent Do?
The first thing a parent should do is to talk to the child directly. This shouldn't be too difficult or awkward if you have a close relationship with your teenage child. Having that bond with your kid makes it easier for him/her to open up to you with whatever it is that he/she is going through. With that, there is absolutely no need for you to invade the privacy of your teen because he/she would tell you what it is exactly that is going on.
If that is not the case, then things can get a little more complicated. If you suspect that your child is into a dangerous activity, something that can harm him/her greatly such as unprotected sexual relations, drinking problem or drug abuse, and he/she wouldn't admit it or wouldn't want to talk about it, inform your child that you are going to undertake some investigative work to confirm or disprove your suspicion. Talk to your teenage child calmly and assure him/her that this has nothing to do with trust issues and that as a parent you cannot simply walk away and ignore danger signs.
Stronger Ties, Open Communication
Although you won't have the capacity to control every aspect of your teenage child's life, you have a big role to play in terms of guiding him/her in the right way. This can only be done if you're able to have open communication and strong ties with your child. As stated in the survey done by the Nation Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse at the Columbia University, teenagers with close relationships to their parents are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, go into depression, or keep secrets about their troubles.