SIDE NOTE: After a 5 month hiatus for paternity leave, this blogger is glad to be back! I had no time to write over the past four months. As you well know, infants will sap every bit of your physical energy and time with those sleepless nights! On the other hand, teens will sap every bit of your emotional energy. I’m not sure which one is more difficult, both developmental stages are challenging but the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Now, on to the post topic: To snoop or not to snoop? That is the question. Are you spying on your kid? From time to time a kid comes to me upset because her or his parents had gone through their personal stuff for whatever reason. Several years ago I had a conversation with the parents of one of my students. They were in disagreement about how much digging through their son’s personal effects they should be doing and for what reasons they should be digging. They disagreed as to whether or not they should inform their son that they were snooping around in his drawers, cell phone histories, journals, and web searches.
Over the past 14 years, while working with high-schoolers and their parents, on the East Coast, overseas, and the Midwest, on several occasions, I’ve seen where parents were held liable due to poor decisions made by their teens. Consider the following examples:
1. A teen throws a party and invites some unsavory friends who happen to bring alcohol to the big bash. The parents are nabbed by the police for hosting a party and providing alcohol to minors.
2. A teen is selling marijuana while living with parents in a rented apartment. The landlord gets wind of it, calls the police and ends up evicting the family for distribution of illegal substances.
3. A teen repeatedly skips school; the parents do little to intervene. Eventually they are fined by the county attorney’s office and threatened with jail time if the truancy fine goes unpaid.
4.A teen steals a car, gets into a police chase, causes tens of thousands of dollars in damage and the parents are taken to civil court as the victims seek restitution.
Unfortunately these are not contrived examples; but true incidences that have occurred with students and their families that I’ve worked with.
What’s a Parent To Do?
Remember these facts of common knowledge:
1. When dealing with a high-schooler you are dealing with a person whose brain is not yet fully developed.
2. As the parent, or guardian, you are deemed the adult who is ultimately responsible for their overall well-being.
3.As the owner, or lessee of a dwelling you are ultimately responsible for activities that occur in the dwelling and material brought into and stored in the dwelling.
Try the following ideas:
1. Be clear and up front with your high-schooler about your access to their ‘stuff’. Let them know that you are responsible for what is in your home, what happens in the home, and to a greater extent, for their well-being. Therefore you will from time to time you will inspect their room, check out their activity on their phone, laptop, X-Box, etc. They may not like it, but at least they’ve been forewarned.
2. Expect your high-schooler to make mistakes in judgement. Check behind her. Ask questions. Look at the history of his web surfing. Many parents have deterred horrible situations because they anticipate missteps by their teen.
3. Demonstrate to your teen that they deserve dignity. Children and youth are worthy of respect, because they are people also. In other words inspect, investigate, and protect with dignity. Once upon a time, I had a student whose mom would violate her privacy by barging into the bathroom, anytime she felt like it because she was the mom and the kid was the kid. Needless to say, the girl was very disturbed by her mother’s behavior. Remember the means by which we do something as parents makes all the difference in the end.
4. Remember, it is imperative that you stay informed. Informed about where your kid is going, what he is doing, why she is doing it. It is your moral obligation to make yourself the informed parent.
Disclaimer: Every teen and family dynamic is different. The information in this blog is for informational purposes only. This blog is no substitute for working with a licensed school counselor or other counseling professional.