Q When my daughter caught me snooping through
her email, she changed her password and now I'm totally locked out!
How can I gain her trust-and email access-back?
A It's a familiar scene-parents getting caught
in the act of hacking their child's email or Facebook account and
igniting a battle over privacy. While your intentions may have been
innocent, the feeling of breaking your child's trust and losing
access can be pretty lousy. The first thing to do is to 'fess up.
Kids will see through lies, and dishonesty can further drive a
wedge in your relationship. Then follow these steps to keep lines
of communication open and cultivate mutual respect.
Apologize and acknowledge feelings. Shuffling through your
child's email is like opening her mail without permission or
eavesdropping on a phone conversation. Admit your behavior was
sneaky and not the best way to check in. Don't say: "I'm sorry, but
I'm your mother. It's not a big deal." Do say: "I'm sorry I looked
at your email without talking to you first. I understand why you're
Explain without blame. Help your child understand why you feel
the need to check on emails, but avoid justifying your actions by
blaming them on her behavior. Don't say: "You barely talk to me
anymore, so I had no choice but to dig around for clues in your
email." Do say: "You've been distant lately. I thought your email
might give me some insights into your behavior."
Re-establish boundaries. Unless you are concerned that your
child is participating in dangerous behaviors or having an
inappropriate relationship, you will fare best if you keep
face-to-face dialogue going and come to a mutual agreement on how
to respect your child's privacy. Work out a way to keep in touch
through social networks, email or a routine trip for ice cream each
week that you can both agree will keep you connected.
In case of emergencies. Ultimately we need to trust our
instincts. Major mood swings, changes in appetite, a drop in grades
or loss of interest in social activities might signal big problems.
If you suspect your child is in danger physically or emotionally
and cannot get answers through face-to-face conversations,
violating your child's privacy might be necessary to keep her safe.
In these cases, the issues at hand will generally overshadow the
invasion of privacy. If you do discover trouble, avoid panic. Don't
say: "I can't believe you didn't tell me about this! What else have
you been hiding?" Do say: "Your health and safety are my priority.
I'm here to help. Let's talk about what's going on."
Sharon Cindrich is a mother of two tech-savvy kids from Virginia Beach. Learn more at sharoncindrich.com.
See more of Sharon's stories here.
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