Does your child really need privacy?

Respect your offspring’s need for space, but know when to step in and keep her safe…

You’ve dressed her since she was a newborn, spent all her waking time with her and know who all her friends are. On her part, she loves sharing every thought and action of her day with you.

So, it can come as quite a shock to parents when their little sweetie, who once couldn’t even bear the thought of not being around them, starts wanting to have alone-time. This “alone” time could come in the form of wanting to: dress herself, play on her own or with a friend away from you; or close her bedroom door.

For Natalie Yuen, mum to Sasha, 8, the moment came when her daughter started Primary school, where she has her bunch of close girlfriends share everything about friendship issues and even problems with their own parents. “She chats with them on the phone at home and when I chat her up about what goes on in school, she is not as candid as before. I guess she’s growing up,” Yuen says.

Don’t be upset when you sense that your child no longer needs you. Giving them privacy is a when they will learn and master skills on their own, says Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre. “They need to rest, relax and unwind. It’s their own comfort zone to be away from all the stressors in their life.”

So, when and how should parents give kids the privacy they yearn? How do you draw the line between caring for your child and invading her privacy? We walk through the stages your child will go through.

Before the age of 2

Why junior needs privacy You’d think that a baby has no need for privacy, but even infants can benefit from some alone time. “Privacy is needed when your baby needs to rest, and needs some time away from stimulation so she can wind down and sleep,” explains Koh.
The signs Your baby will show the need for quiet time when she turns away from an activity, or loses eye contact. Lessening the stimulation and interaction is ideal at this point.

Ages 2 to 4

Why junior needs privacy Your toddler is gaining independence quickly! She can now complete tasks on her own such as going to her bathroom, eating a meal, and dressing herself. She also has a better grasp on her own needs and wants. Koh says, “This increase in self-awareness leads to self-exploration, which is important for independence and character growth.”
The signs Your mini-me will show her need to do something on her own by pushing you away, or going elsewhere to do something, explains Koh. This could come in the form of her asking you to leave her to play in the bath on her own, for instance. Give her the illusion of privacy (and keep her safe) by letting her splash about on her own, but staying within earshot, in case she needs a hand.

It is up to her whether or not she chooses to give a distant aunt or family friend a hug. Respect her wishes. 

You’ll also need to start teaching her about personal space and respect for herself. An easy way to define personal space is the area around her that she needs to feel safe and comfortable. Teach her about the areas that no one should be allowed to touch her without permission, and where she shouldn’t be touching others either. This also means that it is up to her whether or not she chooses to give a distant aunt or family friend a hug. Respect her wishes.