Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Your child’s desire for privacy begins to emerge at this age. Whereas she was probably very happy to share everything with you before, now she begins to keep things to herself. For instance, she likes to have her own room, her own computer and to be able to play unsupervised when her friends come over. This is also the age when she starts to complain vociferously (if she hasn’t done so before) because her younger siblings keep touching her toys and possessions – she wants her own personal space at home.
This is a sign of his increased maturity and is perfectly normal. Part of growing up involves developing one’s own identity, and that necessarily involves carving out one’s own territory at home. It’s not that she wants to be secretive, it’s just that she now feels the need to have some privacy. So don’t look on this as a sign of rejection, but as a sign of healthy psychological development.
You may have difficulty letting go a little at this stage in your nine-year-old’s life. After all, you are used to her spontaneously sharing her stories, her excitement, and her ideas with you, and you want that closeness to continue. You may also be worried about what she might get up to, for instance, when she is allowed to surf the web on her own. This is a new phase for you; and you could have a sense that your “little girl” is changing before your eyes.
Chat to her about your concerns. Explain that you recognise her need for a bit more personal space now that she is older, that you are aware she doesn’t want to be bothered by intrusive little brothers and sisters who want to wander into her room uninvited. She’ll respond positively when she sees that you treat her seriously. At the same time, make sure she understands that you want to keep a close connection with her and that she should not keep secrets from you. Help her understand that she can be open with you and yet have privacy at the same time.
Don’t leave everything to chance, however. Agree on clear guidelines about the extent of her personal space and privacy. For example, you might negotiate with your nine-year-old that she can use the Internet in her room on her own but that she can only go to sites you have previously approved. (Bear in mind that most service providers will set child restrictions on surfing anyway, if requested by parents.)
True, she might break these rules but give her an opportunity to try out this increased freedom for herself. Your trust in her encourages her to be responsive to you.Make sure the others in the family also respect her privacy. Tell her siblings, for example, that they are to keep out of her room unless she personally invites them in or that they are not to interrupt her when she plays with her friends. Your nine-year-old will feel very mature and important when she hears you set out these rules to her brothers and sisters.
In your discussions with her, add that she has a responsibility to prove to you that she is capable of managing this privacy, this increased personal space. Explain that she shouldn’t get up to mischief when she is on her own, and that she shouldn’t do anything which you would disapprove of or be upset about. By monitoring her behaviour as best you can, you’ll be able to check whether or not she adheres to the guidelines you have set.
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