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Ask The Expert: My Teenage Daughter Is Always in Her Room

Dear Your Teen:

My daughter stays in her room all day. She turned 13 and started asking everyone in our family to knock on the door before entering. This is new to us. Should we be worried she wants so much privacy? And how much is too much? Thanks!

EXPERT | Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D.

Thirteen is the start of the teen years. It seems to be a year of awakening and exploration for many teens. The changes in behavior and attitude can seem so drastic for some teens that it can be hard for parents to believe that only a year has passed since 12. The transition from tween to teenhood on average begins earlier for girls than boys.

It is understandable that you have concerns about the sudden changes a 13-year-old may exhibit, especially having to do with teens and privacy. In this particular instance, your teenage daughter is likely in her room as a way to assert more independence and control over her life. Privacy can become even more important as she notices physical changes.

In reality however, we could speculate forever about why your teenage daughter is suddenly seeking more privacy. The best way to garner the information is simply to ask the question directly.

I would advise you to say something like this: “We noticed that you are closing your door more often and requesting more privacy so we just wanted to check in and make sure everything is okay.”

You should be prepared for an answer that could range from a polite, honest explanation to an annoyed, offended rant that provides little information. Thirteen is a tough age. Attitude is not uncommon.

The answer to this question also requires more questions. For example, does your teenage daughter have a computer, tablet, or phone in her room? Is she busy conversing with friends or listening to music and therefore does not want any intrusions?

The true question you need to be asking is whether your daughter is requesting more privacy and alone time because she is engaging in activities in her room by herself or with others (e.g. video chatting, messaging, social networking) or is she simply looking to be isolated and left alone? The former certainly requires monitoring.

Worry Signs:

  • Drastic changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Reduced desire to interact with others including friends
  • Diminished interest in activities she previously enjoyed

These sudden changes may be a sign of stress, anxiety, or depression. A professional evaluation is suggested if you observe these changes.

Teenagers require rules and boundaries. You are worried that your teenager is always in her room. Her request for more privacy might be fine, but try to understand why she wants to be left alone, and specifically what it is that she is doing in her room.

If she refuses to offer an answer, and there is nothing in her room that could potentially cause harm, you should work with her to establish an appropriate boundary. For example, as long as your daughter is following through on her responsibilities of daily living such as completing homework on time, coming to the table for family meals, keeping up with daily hygiene, and following through on daily chores, there is no harm in allowing her more private time and respecting her request that those who are about to enter knock.

Your daughter’s request may simply be an example of a young teen who is looking to feel more empowered and in control of her life. In that instance, a little privacy is not too much to ask.

Jennifer Powell-Lunder

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist, author of Teenage as a Second Language and creator of ItsATweensLife.com.