How many parents despair of the mess they find upon opening their teenager’s bedroom door? How often do they shout and nag ‘And tidy your bedroom up!’? How many parents wrestle with a sense of failure as they wonder where they can possibly have gone wrong?
Yet, this problem hits all families, and generally speaking no matter how hard the parents try, the result is the same; they might manage to get their teenager to tidy their room up – but it isn’t long before it is back in a mess, maybe even worse than it was originally!
However, it may be worth considering that perhaps there may be a very good reason why teenagers in particular have messy bedrooms.
Very often the state of the individual's bedroom can be a reflection of how they feel about themselves. The bedroom is a personal space; rarely will anyone else enter it except those we deeply trust. It is here that we feel safe to be at our most vulnerable. Therefore, how we feel about this space indicates how we feel about ourselves and our own vulnerability. If we are confused and struggling to work out who we really are, then our bedroom will be confused and a mess. If we are content and secure in ourselves, then our bedroom will be a space we will delight in and it will reflect our tastes and personality in its décor and furnishings.
So, what about teenagers? If the above is true then, judging by their bedrooms, teenagers are totally confused and internally disturbed. Could this be the case?
Developmentally, during early teens, youngsters are asking the same questions that they asked when they were first born. Who am I? Whom can I trust? What am I allowed/able to do? How do I fit into this new world? When first born, the baby is seeking answers to these questions as he/she comes into the world from the womb. Teenagers are asking these questions as they move from childhood to adulthood.
Unfortunately, the society within which we live is confused in terms of how they see these young people, as reflected by the minimum ages at which they are allowed to do things. For example, a young person, at
10 can get locked up for killing someone
13 can be found guilty of rape and other sex offences
can work part-time
14 can have an air rifle or pistol
can be found guilty of any crime
15 pays full price at the cinema
can be sent to young offenders institution or prison
16 pays full price on public transport
can leave home with parents’ permission
can have sex with someone else
can get married or become Civil Partners with parents’ consent
can sign medical consent forms
17 can drive a car
can leave home without parents’ consent
18 can vote
can change his/her name
can act as executor of a person’s will
can serve on a jury
can borrow money
can drive a London Underground train
can get married
can have his/her own credit card
21 can drive a bus or a big lorry
22 can demand National Minimum wage
This is just a sample of the things that can be done at the different ages. I wonder what message all of this gives to our young people. At 16 they are considered old enough to leave home, marry, have sex, sign consent forms and pay full fare on public transport but they can’t have credit cards, can’t drive or vote and are not entitled to National Minimum wage!
It is small wonder that so many of our young people feel confused and disorientated not knowing fully who they are and how they fit in to wider society. And as a result their bedrooms will be a confused mess, reflecting the inner turmoil that they are experiencing.
With the best will in the world it is almost impossible for the conscientious parent to help their offspring to negotiate the transition from childhood to adulthood without some trauma. With so many confused messages from society around them, they are seriously limited with regards to how much responsibility and freedom they can allow them to assume. As a result, the frustrated teenager will show signs of this confusion. All a parent can hope to do is allow freedom and responsibility as and when it’s appropriate and keep communicating to their youngsters that it is frustrating, but it won’t last for ever. Furthermore, accepting that their bedroom will reflect this confusion and being patient with them will go a long way to alleviate some of the pressure that they are experiencing. In time they will deal with this as they, hopefully, become content in who they are and how they fit in.
If you are struggling with this, either as a parent or a teenager, and feel you need additional help to navigate these choppy waters, then perhaps counselling will be able to offer the support that you need.