How to Know When to Give Your Child Space

Space for Teens

In a climactic scene in the Adam Sandler movie "Spanglish," the teenage protagonist snaps at her mother: "I need some space!" Predictably, the mother doesn't respond well to her daughter's declaration. Many parents face a similar pivotal moment in their relationship with their teenager, realizing that the space their child so desperately wants will soon be permanent. Yet, as hard as it is to begin severing that bond, it's necessary for the teen to complete his or her transformation into an adult.

These tips may help you better navigate the years of your child's burgeoning independence:

1. Don't take it personally. Teenagers often reject activities and interests they once shared with their parents and siblings. This is all part of the process a teen undergoes to distance him or herself from childhood.

2. Address your teen differently than you did when he or she was younger. Your child may always be that sweet little baby boy or girl to you, but teenagers expect not to be treated as children. If you still want to maintain a connection with your teen while allowing him or her more space, acknowledge that he or she is becoming an adult. This will make your child more likely to want to maintain a positive relationship with you.

3. Be nonintrusive, but don't allow total privacy. Your teen will probably want unlimited space, but you should always be aware of what's going on in his or her life. Know who your child's friends are, what's going on at school and what he or she spends time on. And while you should respect your teen's private space, his or her room should never be off limits to you.

4. Don't check out just yet. As much as he or she may hate it, your teen is still a minor. It's important to still parent your teenager. You may have loosened some of the rules to accommodate his or her newfound independence, but don't do away with all of them. Teens still need structure and accountability.

The next page has lots more information on parenting.

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  • Estes, Kim. "Tweens and Independence: Keeping Them Safe." (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • "Teen Space, Teen Privacy?" (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • Fleck, Kara. "Straightening Out a Bumpy Day." May 9, 2011. (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • Healy, Maureen. "Kids Feeling Blue: 5 Ways to Get Them Talking." Psychology Today. Oct. 5, 2011. (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • Kurcinka, Mary Sheedy. "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime." William Morrow Paperbacks. Feb. 20, 2001.
  • Langlois, Christine. "When Your Teen Pulls Away." Canadian Living. (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • O'Shaughnessy, Lynn. "How to Keep in Touch With College Students." U.S. News & World Report. Sept. 21, 2010. (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • St. John's University. "Tips for Dealing with your homesick child." October 2007. (Dec. 21, 2011)
  • Thompson, Chris. "5 Tips for Successful Parenting." March 22, 2011. (Dec. 21, 2011)