Parenting Teens & the Privacy Issue


We have an adolescent son and daughter, and at times it seems like we can’t ask them even a simple question without them protesting that “You don’t trust me.”  How can we communicate trust and respect for their privacy while still being loving and responsible parents?


Just as there are seasons in life, there are seasons in our relationships with our kids, and adolescence can be one of the most challenging seasons most parents will ever face.  The developmental tasks of separation, individuation, and developing autonomy can easily lead to miscommunication and frustration.

Loving parents who are concerned for the health and safety of their need to know what they’re doing and who they’re spending time with.  In their desire to safeguard their kids it’s easy for parents to come across in ways that feel invasive.

The fact is that for many kids, a well-meaning parent asking even innocuous questions about their friends or daily activities can be interpreted as lack of trust and respect and an invasion of privacy.

Chuck Swindoll once said that the best time to start parenting teenagers is before they become teenagers.  Starting when they are young, cultivate the habit of asking about their day.  Dads, this is especially important for you as most of us don’t do this very well.

Ask them about what they learned, what made them laugh, and what was the most fun.  And then listen.  And then listen some more.  Then you can share your day with them.  What was fun and what was hard.  You can ask them if there is anything that you can pray about for them.

Invite their friends over.  Get to know their friends parents.  I’ve worked with many couples who meet with other parents a couple of times a year to talk about and pray for their kids and for each other.

The more we treat them like adults, the more they will act like adults.  The more we lovingly allow them to experience the consequences of their unhealthy decisions, the more likely they are to learn from them. The less we “rescue” them, the less likely they will need to be rescued.

Finally, pray with them. Pray for them.  Let them know that they are loved, valued and precious in your sight.  Remember James 5:16 and never underestimate the power of loving, listening and prayer.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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