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My Parents Won't Respect My Privacy

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have a big problem with my parents. Whenever I am gone they like to search through my personal belongings. Whenever I get upset they always make it out to always be my fault. This is really upsetting me. Sometimes I don't know if they care about the way I feel or not. I don't have anything to hide, well actually I do, but they are my personal possessions. I feel I am being violated. I know parents are older and SOMETIMES wiser but they are denying my privacy and that's not fair. Please respond. This is an important issue. I am 15 years old.

A: Based on the facts that you present, I think that you have a right to feel that your parents are violating your privacy. In a democratic household where family members are supposed to respect, honor and trust one another, you are not being granted those rights and privileges. Just as they would not expect you to go through their personal possessions in their absence, so too should you expect them to act in a similar manner.

I do not know, nor do you mention, if their searching your possessions is a result of their already finding things among your possessions like alcohol, drugs, pornography, weapons or stolen goods. Do you think that you have given them any cause to suspect that you are keeping anything in your possession that you should not have? You do mention that you don't "have anything to hide" but then quickly follow that statement with, "well actually I do but they are my personal possessions." So there are clearly things that you keep in your room or somewhere in your house, which you do not want your parents to see or to know about, correct?

The big issue here is trust. If you think they are just randomly rummaging through your possessions in an effort to "check up" on you, for no good reason other than their concern that you might be doing something wrong, then they really do need to stop this continuing invasion of your privacy. Perhaps you can get another trusted family member, extended family member or trusted family friend to help you make your case with your parents. Your clergy and your school counselor might also offer to plead your case with your parents. Perhaps a meeting with a family therapist could help you and your parents come to an agreement about this. I know that I am challenging you to take some action here. I do so because I don't think that your parents see anything wrong with what they are doing and they will not ask for help in this area. Please let me know if I can help out further and let your parents know that they can consult me as well for an objective opinion on this matter.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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