Get out of my room! The truth about a teenager's bedroom

After being a mildly interesting place in which to spend an hour and sleep, when a child hits the teenage years the bedroom becomes a fortress, shrine and refuge. Only the honoured or the brave may enter. And to be honest, few would actually want to.

So if you’re struggling to navigate the terrifying enclave that is an adolescent’s room, here are the important elements and the psychology behind them...

Strange temperature

The adolescent room tends to somewhat contrary in terms of temperature. They’ll happily swelter with the radiator on in August with all the windows shut, wrapped in a duvet. And then fling the windows wide to let the snow blow in. This is not simply a desire to annoy, say psychologists; it’s because their bedroom is the first place in which they can control their own environment. So repeatedly saying “Gosh, it’s hot in here” will have no effect whatsoever.

Doorbell

Signs that say ‘Keep Out’, “KNOCK!” or even, in extreme cases, a doorbell, are all ways of teenagers marking out their territory. It’s a primal thing: are you a friend or foe, are you in the tribe? Parents will find they are very probably not (unless they’re brandishing a twenty pound note or a cup of tea), younger siblings will be absolutely barred but other pack members, i.e. friends, will be fine.

No sharing

Teenagers very rarely had their own bedrooms before 1840. Fewer children, no live-in servants or boarders meant that it became possible for young middle class people to have their own rooms. It was also seen as a way of encouraging self-control and respecting their own environment. That worked well.

Nowadays it’s more common for young people to have their own rooms, but if they do share, there’ll be an elaborate borderline made with sheets, tape or furniture.

Apocalyptic mess

The mess has a purpose. It says “I have chosen my environment to be deliberately different from yours”. Interestingly, frequently adolescents living in chaotic homes will have very tidy rooms, and the reverse is also true. Whatever you’re doing, it’s wrong, and they’re right. So there!

Electronics

Stereos, laptops, mobiles - it’s no coincidence that all the chargers in the house gravitate to the teenager’s bedroom. The bedroom is a safe haven, and becoming absorbed in technology entertainment is an even safer space - it’s a world within a world.

Once radios and record players became smaller and cheaper they could be bought by teenagers themselves and put in their bedrooms. Before then, the ‘home entertainment’ would be in the living room.

Decoration

In the 1950s products began being marketed specifically at young people, so the right posters, the right music on display, the right ‘markers’ means that the teenager is declaring their tribe, whatever that is. Either way, it’s not your tribe so don’t expect to understand it.

The teen bedroom is the place where adolescents can be and express themselves. It’s a refuge and a safe space, but occasionally a lonely place. If your teen’s hiding away, don’t stop knocking completely. One day you might be let in.

Listen to Thinking Allowed: Teen Bedrooms

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