by Dr Jo Walker
As our children move towards and through adolescence they begin to build more intimate attachments with people outside their family. They think more about the impression others have of them. They might share different aspects of themselves to different people. We might think of them making choices about what they show to different audiences on their front stage and what they keep on their more private back stage. Deciding what to share and with whom is really important. The question is, are our children making wise choices?
A generation ago, adolescents had smaller, more local groups of friends; they may have expressed more private thoughts in a diary or a particular best friend. They engaged with their friends in face to face interactions, or in 1-1 conversations on the phone. Adolescents today are growing up in a social media age where questions about privacy and self-disclosure are really critical. They can share private aspects of themselves in very public social forums. They can invite social media acquaintances into their private backstage without anyone else knowing. They can present different versions of themselves to different people. They can access new opportunities, experiences and ideas without anyone else knowing. They can have hundreds of on line friends, yet have few meaningful relationships.
How can we guide our children in knowing when to steer towards higher or lower self-disclosure?
We can do this by modelling wise and healthy self-disclosure ourselves, but we can also signpost to our children those times to share our qualities, skills, feelings, ideas and opinions, and when it is wiser keep them to ourselves or share them in a more private way.
Times when it is healthy and wise to keep our qualities, skills, feelings, ideas and opinions to ourselves.
- Meeting someone for the first time
- Choosing not to post intimate, personal or evocative things on social media
- Keeping a confidence
- Holding back an opinion or view if it may inflame or agitate a situation or hurt someone
- Listening to others and not interrupting
- Giving someone opportunity to voice an idea, opinion or thought rather than sharing your own
- Holding back an answer or solution so that others can get to it in their own time
- Choosing not to demonstrate skills so that others can have an opportunity to develop their skills
- Persevering with a task on your own before reaching out for help
- Choosing to spend time alone, not connected to any social media devices
- Holding a thought or question in your head and waiting for an appropriate time to ask it
- Asking for help or advice from someone you trust
- Telling a teacher at school if work is too easy or too challenging
- Telling someone how you are feeling if they have upset you
- Ask a question if something is confusing or you want to know more information
- Telling family about your day
- Joining in conversations, sharing ideas and opinions
- Posting appropriate comments on social media which build friendships
- Suggesting ideas to the family
- Collaborating on a shared family task, or joining in a family activity
- Joining in clubs, activities where you can share your skills with others