Personal space and privacy boundaries should be discussed in families, we look at how to negotiate these boundaries.
Kids need personal and private time for all sorts of reasons, exactly like adults do. Often parents are worried that if kids have privacy they will use this time and space to do things that they are not supposed to.
Negotiating boundaries is an essential skill that people will need throughout their lives. Parents can use privacy boundaries negotiation to model how to practice this skill.
Start with defining what you are talking about.
People need privacy to be able to do things alone in their own space, BUT privacy and secrecy are not the same thing. If you are doing things that you know is naughty or that I wouldn’t approve of, then maybe we need to chat about why you want to do these things and find a way to renegotiate a boundary or give me a further opportunity to discuss why I think this behaviour may be harmful to you.
Let your child be part of the decision-making process about what are appropriate boundaries.
What sort of things do you think are private?
What sort of things do you think are secret?
Use those 2 to discuss what privacy looks like versus secrecy.
Privacy would include:
Wanting to be alone to read or just be away from people for a bit.
Being able to make a surprise like a birthday card if you promise to clean up after yourself.
Having a nap.
Any personal body time like touching or looking at your penis, this can also happen in the bath (you can add a conversation about bath time genital hygiene)
Secrecy would include:
Using the internet in a way that we’ve already discussed as not being okay, so watching videos or playing games that have an age restriction.
Hiding to do something that you think would get you in trouble.
Let your child come up with examples of what privacy and secrecy each mean. Kids are very concrete thinkers, and letting them negotiate the boundary with you is far more valuable than having a rule that doesn’t make sense to your kid or that they haven’t practiced applying to situations.
Describe how the boundary will be respected.
Give you child a way to enforce the boundary. For Example:
“If your bedroom door is closed I won’t open it without knocking, and you can tell me that you want privacy and I will leave you alone. Similarly, if my bedroom door is closed I expect you to knock before you open the door and I am allowed to ask for privacy too.”
Make an agreement and discuss the consequence of breaking the agreement upfront.
“Can you agree that you can have privacy in your room to be alone but not secrecy to do things you know is wrong?”
Decide together how you will deal with a situation where there has been a situation where the boundary has been ignored or an unacceptable action has occurred.
These may include:
Your child being expected to leave their door open in the day so that you can look in on them for a period of time (1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month) with a renegotiation of the boundary before they are allowed door closed time again.
No digital devices in their bedrooms.
Remember to keep your conversations age appropriate and recognise that children need to learn how to negotiate boundaries. The best way to learn these skills is by being guided by a parent before an issue comes up or before there has been a perceived transgression of a boundary that was never discussed.