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Should schools "profile" all students to identify those who may become violent?
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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices

When should parent's search their child's room?

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America as a country greatly values privacy and individual right, so it is no wonder that American parents are perplexed by the idea of searching their child s room. But common sense and attention to normal childhood developmental tasks should be the basic guides to parenting, not the technical aspects of American legal justice. After all, the room is part of a home where the mortgage, or rent, is paid by the parents, and the child is not yet an adult supporting him or herself.

With development as the guide, it becomes clear that the room and its contents become more private as the child gets older. Most young children are so eager for their parents attention that they welcome entry into the world of their room as long as one is respectful of their toys and other possessions. It is actually here that the joining with children should begin. Establishing early an interest in the child and his or her prized possessions begins the process of trust and sharing that becomes a foundation for later talks and discussions.

As children become preteens they become naturally more private and even reclusive. But there is still a need to be interested in their world and explore it with them. This can take the form of helping the child to clean his/her room periodically, re-organizing the closet or drawers, and re-arranging items on shelves or in bookcases. This kind of process naturally happens at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year. While this is technically not "searching" it allows you as the parent to keep in touch with your child s world and to begin to develop your own sense of whether or not to be concerned enough to go further.

The going further, to actually search -your child s room, should only be done if one suspects illegal substances or behavior that might be physically harmful. This includes a wide range of things from drugs or alcohol, to guns, to hoarding of food. If you as a parent suspect such, then your searching is an act of caring, not an intrusion on privacy.

Your child needs you to care enough to go the extra step and look. Chances are if you are suspecting something, your child is dropping clues to see if you care, and in some way wants what they are hiding to be discovered.

If you do search, you must be prepared to do something about what you might find. This requires thinking ahead and planning together as parents so that both of you agree about how the situation will be handled.

For divorced parents, this becomes more difficult, but nevertheless must occur. While the thought of having to search your child s room is unpleasant and perhaps even distasteful~ the more guarded the child, the more insistent on privacy, the greater the likelihood of potential danger.

When Shakespeare wrote, "Me thinketh he protest too much?" he was eluding to the desire to be pursued, caught and thus cared for. Active, caring parenting may require searching.

What do you think about searching Give us your opinion and then read what other parents have to say about it.

Written by Susan Villani, M.D., Medical Director of School Programs, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore Maryland.


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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