Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Get More Privacy?
“Mom!” you exclaim, scrambling for a robe. “I’ve asked you a hundred times to knock first!” But Mom seems to find your predicament amusing. To add insult to injury, she has once again poked around in your dresser drawers on the pretense of “straightening them out for you.” Then there’s that sister of yours who thinks she has the undeniable right to borrow everything you own—with or without permission.
‘Doesn’t anyone respect my privacy?’ you wonder.
FEW things are as irksome as an invasion of one’s privacy. Oh, you don’t question the fact that your parents have the right to supervise you. But do they really have to snoop into every detail of your life? And while you don’t mind sharing a room with a brother or a sister, are you not entitled to enjoy the room by yourself some of the time?
Fortunately, the picture may not be quite as dark as it looks. With a little skill and imagination, you may be able to add a sizable portion of privacy to your life.
Your Parents—Concerned or Just Curious?
Parents have a right to know what is going on in the lives of their children. They want you to “flee from the desires incidental to youth” and be spared from calamity. (2 Timothy 2:22) They see how promiscuity and drug abuse have ruined other young lives and want something better for you.
Quite naturally, then, they worry about how you behave when out of their sight. So when a parent makes an unwelcome incursion into your room or takes a peek into your diary, this is not just idle curiosity but likely an expression of real love and concern. When a young girl complained to a newspaper columnist that her mother demanded a door be left open when she is alone with a member of the opposite sex, the columnist replied: “Thank your ‘nosy’ mother for caring enough about you to do what a mother is supposed to do—minimize the human temptations all normal kids eventually encounter.”
The Folly of Deception
How, though, should you react if your parents impose what appears to be an unreasonable restriction of privacy? Observes writer Andrea Eagan: “Yelling at your mother because you feel that she’s being unreasonable may not be the most productive thing for you to do. You probably don’t react very well when someone yells at you, and you shouldn’t expect your mother to either.”
The same can be said for resorting to deviousness or lying. “The devious person is a detestable thing to Jehovah.” (Proverbs 3:32) Furthermore, deviousness often backfires. One young girl who was forbidden by her parents to become romantically involved with a teenage boy tried to correspond with him secretly, using a girlfriend’s home as the mailing address. Little did she expect her girlfriend’s parents to scrutinize their daughter’s mail!
In their book Options, authors Diana Shaw and Caroline Franklin Berry gave sound advice when they said: “Lying to [your parents] when you want them to trust you makes as much sense as stealing to prove how honest you are. When they catch you, they’re likely to crack down on you even more, just for being a sneak.”
‘Giving Your Heart’ to Them
“My son, do give your heart to me,” said the writer of Proverbs 23:26. No doubt your parents would likewise appreciate your honestly and calmly communicating with them. If you need some private time to study or simply to unwind, don’t whine or cry. Help your parents to understand just how important privacy is to you. Allay any fears they might have by spelling out exactly how you intend to spend this time. When they know your periods of solitude include purposeful activities, such as homework, cleaning your room, or meaningful meditation, they are more apt to view this as time well spent.
‘Giving your heart’ includes openly discussing your problems and concerns with your parents. When you do so consistently, they will be less prone to suspect that you are hiding something from them and more prone to allow you privacy. Of course, a solid record of upright conduct goes a long way in assuring a parent you can be trusted. “Even by his practices a boy [or girl] makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.”—Proverbs 20:11.
Finally, ‘giving your heart’ to them means doing things their way. For example, does your mother make unannounced room inspections—immediately followed by a lecture on neatness? Observes the book The Private Life of the American Teenager: “Many parents refuse to respect the privacy of a child’s room unless the room is cleaned.” True, you may prefer the lived-in look to mother’s more antiseptic style. But would not increased privacy be worth doing things mom’s way?
When You Have to Share
Sharing a room with a brother or a sister can make it especially difficult to find a measure of privacy. The situation can be particularly touchy if you must share with a new brother or a new sister in a stepfamily. The Bible, though, urges Christians: “There must be no room for rivalry and personal vanity among you, but you must humbly reckon others better than yourselves. Look to each other’s interest and not merely to your own.” (Philippians 2:3, The New English Bible) Yes, Christians should be “ready to share.”—1 Timothy 6:18.
So rather than fighting, try negotiating with your sibling roommate. Perhaps you can work out a schedule whereby each allows the other some time alone in the room. Spell out clearly what items can be used or borrowed and which ones are off limits. Simply rearranging the furniture (perhaps using a room divider) may create more living space or at least the impression of privacy. A number of youths also find that rising early affords them the opportunity to study, work at a hobby, or even exercise in pleasant solitude!
Applying the Golden Rule
The real key to obtaining privacy is to show consideration. The Bible says: “All things . . . that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) When we show consideration for the privacy of others, most likely we will be shown consideration ourselves.
So if the door to your parents’ room is closed, knock before you enter; perhaps they’ll reciprocate. If your sister wants to study or meditate, play your music another night if you want the same kindness shown to you later on. Do you resent others peering into your diary? Then respect the personal belongings of other family members. “The more you earn your family’s trust, the more privacy you’ll get,” notes Seventeen magazine.
Use Privacy Constructively!
How, though, will you use your newfound privacy? Why not determine to put your personal time to good use? There are many constructive things you can do. Solitude may provide you an opportunity to develop new skills, such as playing a musical instrument or learning a second language. To 18-year-old Lynn, privacy means “being able to entertain thoughts and feelings about something or make decisions without others trying to do it for me.” Twenty-year-old Paula adds that “privacy also means having time and a place to do things alone, such as meditate and pray to Jehovah without interruption.”
Consider the example of Jesus Christ. Here was a teacher and public figure who exposed himself daily to crowds of people. Yet, he knew how to use privacy productively. At Mark 1:35 we are told that “early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] rose up and went outside and left for a lonely place, and there he began praying.” Praying privately strengthened Jesus’ faith and prepared him for the trials he was destined to face. Our faith in God and appreciation for his love for us can likewise be strengthened by seeking out times to meditate and pray.
Yes, the possibilities are numerous. With effort, a willingness to communicate, and a display of sincere consideration for others, you may very well obtain all the privacy you need.
[Blurb on page 20]
Ranting and raving accomplish little. Through calm discussion, help your parents understand your feelings
[Pictures on page 21]
Reorganizing your room, such as by adding a room divider, is one way to increase privacy