Meg F. Schneider, MA, LCSW-R

Your Daughter’s Diary: Can You Read It?

Lots of parents ask me when it’s okay to read their daughters’ diaries.

Before I answer that question let me explain something about that diary.

It’s a very beautiful thing. It holds the confidences of an adolescent who has found a way to safely express herself – describe her experiences, explore her feelings, and even seek comfort. This is not something to tamper with lightly.

You might be tempted to check it out the first time your adolescent comes home drunk from a party, or starts to diet a little too intensely, or has added a dicey friend to her entourage. But these are normal teenage testing behaviors. Your daughter is entitled to missteps, some poor judgment calls, and experimentation without having her privacy invaded.

However there is an exception. If you have a child who is clearly troubled and by that I mean, looking very unhappy, sleeping and eating poorly, changing friends and entering a crowd you don’t trust, and who you suspect is more than experimenting with drugs and drinking you might want to take a look.

The thing is what happens if you read something that scares you. She’s having sex too early. She’s using an addictive drug. She’s cutting.

You can either tell her you want her to start seeing a therapist because she seems very unhappy and inform the therapist of what you’ve read, or you can admit you read the diary and tell your daughter you are very concerned about her and insist she see a therapist. Either way your tone has to be calm, non-judgmental, and loving…no matter how angry and obstreperous your daughter becomes.

Here’s what you can’t do. You can’t ignore what you read and hope it goes away.

Adolescents who climb into a dark pit emotionally, rarely get out of it without significant help. A good therapist is important. But what’s really key is open, honest and loving parents who want to help — not hide, punish, or insist that their child confide in them. She won’t. But she will lie…and never keep a comforting diary again.

Copyright © 2024  Meg F. Schneider, MA, LCSW-R. All rights reserved.