Secretive behavior is a very common problem with teenagers. Parents want to know everything that is going on in their child’s life and their child wants the complete opposite. If your teen isn’t telling you anything and you are sure that they are hiding things from you, it can lead to a lot of tension in the family. It also means that you are unaware of potentially difficult situations that they are going through, so you are unable to help them.
Pushing your teenager to share things with you rarely works and, in most cases, just causes them to be more secretive. So, what are you supposed to do? Here’s how parents can deal with a secretive teenager.
Why Are Teens Secretive In The First Place?
There are a lot of reasons why teenagers keep secrets from their parents. If your teen is being secretive, they may be hiding one of these things:
- Alcohol and drug use
- Going out with friends to places that they know their parents would disapprove of (and possibly without parental permission)
- Mental Health Problems
- Gender/sexual identity confusion
- Problems at school
Often, teenagers keep these things secret because they fear getting in trouble. However, it’s also important to remember that this is a formative time in their life and they are creating a distinct identity for themselves. Having aspects of their life that are secret makes them feel more independent from their parents. So, in some ways, that secrecy is an important part of their development. But, there are situations when it goes too far, and that’s what you have to deal with.
How To Deal With Secretive Teenagers
Respect Their Privacy
Just because your teen is being secretive does not mean that you should become controlling or listen in on their phone calls or texts. In fact, this behavior will likely have the opposite effect and cause them to be even more secretive. The idea here is very much a trust-based approach, so if you want their trust, then it’s important for you not to invade their privacy in a way that feels disrespectful.
Privacy is important for teenagers and if you violate it, you will damage your relationship with them.
Teach The Difference Between Privacy and Secrecy
There is a difference between privacy and secrecy and it’s important that you teach your teenager this. Privacy is a part of every healthy relationship and it’s about respecting someone’s space. On the other hand, secrecy is a way that an individual can manipulate a situation to their advantage. It’s also about hiding something from others and it often involves lying. These are two very different things, so don’t let your teenager get away with being secretive just because you respect his/her privacy.
You also need to explain to your teenager that there are certain things you need to know about in order to make sure that they are safe and healthy. Their privacy only extends as far as is safe for them.
Have Conversations About Difficult Topics
A lot of the things that teenagers are secretive about tend to be difficult topics that they don’t feel comfortable talking about. For example, you need to have conversations about alcohol and drug use with your teens, even if you don’t think that they would be involved in that kind of thing. If they are acting very secretive and their behavior has changed a lot, they could even have a substance abuse problem. In this case, you may need to look into rehab for alcohol to help them deal with their issues. Having conversations about alcohol and drugs can keep your child safe.
You also need to have difficult conversations about things like sexual identity. It’s very confusing for teenagers that are questioning their identity and they need to know that you are there to support them and you understand their difficulties. They will be less secretive if they know that they can come to you without any judgment.
Watch Out For The Signs Of Mental Health Issues
Teenage years are a very difficult time for mental health issues. Your teen may act out in strange ways if they are suffering from depression or another mood disorder, but it can be hard to tell because they don’t tell you anything. If your teenager is secretive and their behavior has changed dramatically (e.g., they used to be outgoing and now they’re more reserved), then there’s a good chance that something like this could be going on. Other signs include spending less time with friends, changes to their sleeping patterns, anger outbursts, and loss of appetite. If you start noticing these symptoms, you need to speak to your teenager about their mental health.
Build An Atmosphere Of Trust In The Family
Teenagers are secretive because they don’t want to disappoint you. Getting them to open up about their lives is only going to happen if they believe that you won’t get angry or be judgmental. Over time, you need to create an atmosphere of trust and openness in the family so that your child confides in you and feels comfortable with what’s going on in their life.
You can help build this type of atmosphere by encouraging the members of your family to ask each other questions and give feedback. For example, it’s a good idea for everyone to tell each other one thing that went well during the day when they come home from work or school. It helps kids feel like part of a team and makes them more willing to share things.
When your teenager does share things, it is important that you don’t overreact. If they decide to open up to you about the behavior you don’t necessarily agree with and you have a bad reaction, they won’t open up again in the future. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be punished for bad behavior, but you need to be understanding and make sure that they still feel comfortable sharing with you in the future.
It’s natural for teenagers to be secretive sometimes, but it can cause a lot of problems. If you follow these tips, you can encourage them to open up so you know what is going on with them.