13 November 2009 11:33 AM

A Room of Their Own

by Dr. Rick

The question for today is, “What should be in a teenager’s room to make it functional and comfortable?”


Teens want their independence , and it’s a good idea to let them have it in earned increments.  Taking the responsibility for one’s own room is an excellent first step in independence.  The way you take care of your room is a pretty good indicator of how you’re going to take care of your first car, for example.


Having a room of your own is a luxury not all families can give.  If your family can offer your teen her own room, make sure she – or he – understands your expectations and her responsibilities.  And her good fortune.


I’ve seen some teens’ rooms that are pretty fancy, with private baths, sitting areas, custom-designed décor, and even one or two with small kitchenettes.  That’s a little over-the-top, in my humble opinion, but whatever works for each family.


My tastes and inclinations go toward the more modest – a comfortable, attractive, functional space that doesn’t encourage isolation and separation from the rest of the family.  A space the teen must maintain, keep relatively orderly (or at least habitable), and serve as the hub for his most important role, student.


Here are some ideas to consider.

  1. Make it personal.  Let the room reflect the personality of the teen.  Posters, door murals, display areas for memorabilia, special interests, and hobbies all make for an interesting and inviting space.

  2. Make it functional.  The room should have an area for homework, an area that helps him keep organized.  Shelves, drawers, storage bins or baskets, and a work area where everything’s within arm’s reach can help.  The work area should have a personal computer and a comfy chair.  Bright overhead light and a work-space lamp are essential.  A bulletin board can’t hurt.  Lots of furniture has built-in storage space.  Other furniture is foldable, a plus for cramped quarters.

  3. Make it comfortable.  A comfortable, inviting room doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and it will help to keep your teen willingly at home rather than “over at Heather’s house.”  It’s also helpful when she has her “study buddies” over to work on special assignments together or to study for mid-terms .

  4. Make it unique.  Teens like a distinctive space of their own.  Let them select a “theme” room with decorations centered on a favorite activity – sports, travel, animals, music, or styles. (African, Hawaiian, Hollywood, fashion, vintage cars, etc.  You get the picture.)  Don’t go overboard, though.  Today’s favorite interests aren’t always tomorrow’s.

  5. Make it a privilege.  Having one’s own room is not an inalienable right.  It’s a space where homework and studying are to be done.  So if report card grades don’t reflect it, make it clear that you’ll need to insist on homework being done back at the dining room table for a while, where you can monitor more closely.

The room doesn’t have to be – shouldn’t be – palatial.  If you’re cramped for space, be creative.  For example, a raised “loft” bed makes space underneath for a desk and study area.  Inexpensive, foldable director’s chairs can be folded away when they’re no longer needed.   Make a deal with your teen  that a new or newly-re-decorated room is a reward for meeting specific agreed-upon school goals and keeping up with those achievements.  You can work out minor expectations like volume of music or whether to have TV in there.  (Be careful of isolation from the rest of the family, a worrisome teenage predilection.)


In any case, visit the new room often, and make the rest of the house as inviting as possible to your teen.  The perfect situation is where he feels perfectly comfortable anywhere in the house, and his room is just an added attraction, perfect for his own interests and needs.


What’s your teen’s room like?  Share your stories with Dr. Rick Blog readers by clicking on Comments” below.




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