Why Your Child Needs Her Own Space

By not giving your child a place of her own -- a simple space in which she can emote, do inner work, and most importantly, be private -- you are telling her, in so many words, that she can't be trusted.
02/29/2016 02:53 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2017
Young girl plays with dolls in dolls house.
Young girl plays with dolls in dolls house.

As your adolescent moves through the teenage years, she is also moving toward individuation. As a result, she will test herself against her environment every step of the way. This is how your child grows from adolescence into adulthood. And that development requires down time, private time, and a personal space.

Why individual space is important for children

As with everything else in parenting, you must guide your child by giving her freedom within limits... your limits. Therefore, by starting out small and giving your child some responsibility that you can measure and respond to, you will inspire her to reach for more independence. Then, when she has shown you that she is ready for that next step of growth, you can consider offering her her own space... designated by your parameters. This will give her an opportunity to earn your trust, and trust is based on experience. And, that requires you to pay attention, and teach your child the necessary skills for adulthood.

By not giving your child a place of her own -- a simple space in which she can emote, do inner work, and most importantly, be private -- you are telling her, in so many words, that she can't be trusted. Trust is an incremental experience, and you can build trust with your child by first giving her small responsibilities, watching to see if she follows through. If she does, you can give her more. All along the way, you are teaching her that she can earn your trust, and that there is a positive reward for doing so.

Also, she is gaining self-trust by learning that her behavior has consequences. As she seeks positive reinforcement, she is also building a strong central core, a sense of herself that can offer her both confidence and competence.

Finding a space to call her own

If your child lives in your house, she knows and recognizes that you may have limited resources. Therefore, anything that you can do to give her her own special place fosters not only gratitude, but also independence. And feelings of independence can transfer to good decision-making, choosing healthy options, and ultimately transitioning into good self-esteem and a strong sense of self.

All along the way, you are guiding this development through checks and balances, while offering positive reinforcement as a consequence for a good outcome. A closet, a foyer, a play space, a corner - any place that your child can call her own -- will promote a sense of independence, and what comes along with that independence is commitment, obligation, and responsibility.

As your child matures, she is moving toward individuation, and her own environment offers a place where she can stop and listen to her own inner voice, her true vocation. This is how your child will get to know herself, and therefore, learn to make good choices. By following my empathic process, you invest your child in not only family issues and problems, but also in solutions and consequences.

Further, by investing your child in the process of family business, you can make her a part of her home team... and therefore, her home. This is how you build her family identity, and a reward for such responsible behavior can and should be the privacy she seeks for her own personal growth.

Space for young children

Even young children need a place to unwind, to emote, to express anger, and to most importantly, be alone with their thoughts and feelings. Because adults and children alike are constantly bombarded by outside stimuli, including other people, technological equipment, and television, you and your child need a reprieve... a place where you can find some calm, peace, and quiet... some down time.

And for your child, that place can be her sanctuary -- her own room. It is in this quiet place, free from outside noise, that your child can find her creativity, as she connects to both her thoughts and feelings. Each of us needs a quiet place in which to contemplate, journal, read, and just be still; your child is no different. You may call this "unwinding at the end of the day," and even may use outside agents to relax, such as a glass of wine or a cup of tea. However, your child doesn't have those adult coping skills. Thus, giving her a place of her own, within the context of your home, helps her to develop a sense of self-awareness, so necessary for individuation.

Building mutual trust

When you actively listen to your child -- when you see who she is and respect her needs and wants by giving her a space that is calm, private and personal ᅡᆳ-- you are showing her mutuality. You are telling her that you trust her. By doing this, you are building a foundation that is based on positive reinforcement. You've invested her in the process, through my empathic process, and therefore, you've opened a safe space in which she can communicate openly and authentically. This is how you guide your child to her family identity. By making her a viable part of her own family, you are building her inner core and thus, her journey to adulthood.