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To Spy or Not to Spy: That is the Question

I haven’t done a parenting post in a while, and I could use some advice from my amazing friends in the blogosphere!

Quick refresher:  I have 2 children, an almost 14-year-old girl, and an 11-year-old boy.  I am blessed that they are extremely healthy, reasonably well-adjusted, intelligent beings who (for the most part) make good choices.  The bad choices they make are largely commons ones to their respective age brackets.

That said, I had a troubling conversation with my daughter that has not been far from my thoughts in the week since we’ve had it.  My daughter, in my opinion, is one of the most rigidly honest people I know, she will not lie when I ask a direct question.  However, upon entering the turbulent teenage years, it has become a dance for me to ask the exact question to get the information I am seeking, because she does possess the ability to evade questions, quite skillfully.  So she has a friend that I worry is not the best influence, she knows this and has subsequently limited the particulars she will give me about the girl in question.  Without going into unnecessary detail, through trial and error (correction:  many trials, many errors), I finally ferreted out some information:  the girl has been transferred to a school that specializes in mental health issues, as she has apparently attempted suicide on more than one occasion.

My reaction, thankfully, was calm and supportive.  I explained to her how sorry I am for her friend’s troubles, but I am equally concerned that my own daughter has been walking around with such a heavy burden, and with no one to help her process.  She admitted that she worries I may judge, so we worked out a system whereby she can use a special code word with me, and I promise to withhold all judgment.  This then led to even more admissions, friends who engage in the activity known as “cutting,” friends who are chronically depressed, friends who question their sexuality.

Okay, lots of new information to process, and I pray that I did the best job that I could.  I continue to ask regular questions, both about the various friends, and about my daughter’s emotional state in dealing with these friends.  As traumatic as the conversation was, the end result was a positive one, in my opinion, because my daughter unloaded some pretty heavy stuff.

So here comes the question to which I am seeking an answer.  When I asked her how she has been processing all these feelings, she indicated that writing in her journal helps.  I asked if she would share some of her entries, she indicated maybe, but was afraid I would be upset by her use of language, and upset about entries in which she was angry with me.  I could tell that she was reluctant to share, and I have not pressed the issue.

But I want to read this journal, to ensure that there is not even more damaging stuff going on in her world outside of my control.  I did make a cursory glance through her room, figuring if it was easily found, then I would read it (I did not find it).  But all the while, I felt horribly guilty about looking, because I felt like I was invading her privacy.

On the other hand, if I had knowledge of the issues she is facing, I know I could better guide her through them.

What do parents in these situations do?  I am sure there are people who are firmly in both camps, but I am genuinely curious on majority opinion… would you actively seek out her journal?  How about cell phone investigation… would you feel comfortable scrolling through texts?  In theory, I understand that cell phone investigation is necessary, as bad choices made online could have horrific consequences (a boy at my daughter’s school was recently suspended for posting naked pictures of himself), but, then again, I leave that cell phone investigation to my husband, so I am really just passing the buck, not the fairest of ways to handle the situation.

I think I would be more comfortable if I could just make a decision, so that’s why I’m writing and reaching out to all of you sage, wiser-than-I-will-ever-be parents:  how do you handle the privacy issue with your children?

Today’s Miracle:

Hope that the comments I receive will help me get comfortable with a decision on how to proceed!

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