Asking for a friend: Help! My mum keeps reading my journal – even after I asked her to stop

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  • Your diary should be a safe space for you to process your most private thoughts and feelings – we’ve got some tips on how to approach your parents about giving you some personal space
  • Our second question this week is about what to do if your friends make you feel like an outsider by constantly calling you a rich kid
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It is important for your parents to know about your life, but having your privacy is just as important

This column is here to answer all your questions about being a teenager. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to overcome difficult situations at home or school, in your social lives, or even in the animal kingdom, our “Friend of a Friend” is an expert to help provide answers for you!

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please send an email to [email protected] with “Asking for a Friend” in the subject line. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend

I have a habit of writing down all my secrets and feelings, but I don’t feel comfortable with anyone reading them, even my parents.

I had a big fight with my mum after finding out she had been reading my diary. When I asked her to stop, she insisted it was okay for her, as my mum, to read my diary. How do I convince her to give me privacy and stop reading my diary?

Privately Confessional

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Hi Privately Confessional

Writing in a diary is a healthy habit for expressing yourself and processing events or feelings you experience. It is a private way to manage emotions during stressful situations, so of course it makes sense that you would feel upset when someone reads your diary. They have invaded your privacy and broken your trust.

You need to have a longer chat with your mum. Just because she is your mum does not give her the right to read your journal. Explain to her how it makes you feel when she does that, and how important it is for you to have your own space to express yourself. Let your mum know that her insistence on reading your diary can cause harm to your relationship and mutual trust.

It might also be helpful to figure out why she wants to read your diary. Perhaps, she may be concerned about you and wants to know how you are doing.

What to do when your mum is in a mood

If her reasons do demonstrate good intent, you can let her know you will ask for help when you need it, and discuss healthier ways for her to check up on you so she feels more at ease. For example, set up regular times when you will share with her how you are doing.

But if you feel uncomfortable sharing your feelings with your mum, reflect about why that is. Has she made you feel ashamed in the past when you shared your feelings or asked for help? Does she criticise your choices or ideas? If that is the case, then you and your mum will need to discuss how she can be more supportive.

Or, you might just be a very private person. If you’re finding it difficult to share your innermost thoughts with anyone in your life, it is worth taking small steps to start sharing with at least one person, whether it’s your mum, a friend, or even a therapist.

Hope it helps, Friend of a Friend

What should you do when your friends make comments that – even if they're true – make you feel like an outsider?

Hi Friend

My friends are always making a point about my family being wealthy, that my parents drive me to school, and that I live in a big private flat, while most of them live in tiny homes in public estates.

I am grateful that my parents provide for me, but I also feel bad being labelled as a rich kid. My friends also constantly point out how different our school bags and shoes are. It makes me feel like an outsider, and I have to be careful with what I tell them about my family. I don’t like this, but I don’t know what to do.

More Money, More Problems

I think I’m dependent on my boyfriend – how do I make my own friends and have my own life?

Hi More Money, More Problems

This is definitely a difficult situation to be stuck in. On the one hand, you don’t have much control over your family’s financial situation, nor do you have control over your friends’ finances. But there are a few things that you can control: the friends you choose to surround yourself with, how you treat them, and your own attitude towards your family’s money.

If these people only talk about how rich you are all the time, then they aren’t being good friends to you. Building meaningful friendships takes time, but if you’re feeling like an outsider, that might mean you need to spend more time developing your relationships based on what you do have in common – such as sports, food, games, books or other interests.

More importantly, be careful not to build your self-worth on your money. Even if that is what your friends constantly bring up, you have other qualities and interests that you and your friends should be focusing on instead.

How do I discuss depression and mental health as a guy?

If you do feel close enough to these friends, you should share how you feel. It might be difficult to do it in a large group, so find a time when you’re with just one other friend.

As you share your thoughts, be open to hear their perspectives too. Although it is unfair for your friends to constantly target you for your family’s wealth, it is important that you also understand how they might feel about it outside their jokes and jabs. Perhaps your friends could be going through financial difficulties, and these jokes are their indirect – and unhealthy – way of expressing frustration.

This can be an opportunity for them to share why they make those jokes, and for you all to find better ways to support each other. For your friends, that could mean they make these jokes less often and share more honestly about how they feel. For you, that could mean being more considerate, such as picking more affordable places to eat, or – if you’re comfortable with this – sharing some of your things with them.

Expert tips on dealing with peer pressure

It may feel difficult or uncomfortable to talk about your family with your friends, but there is a certain level of awareness that is healthy. It’s not a bad thing to consider whether it will sound like you are bragging when you tell your friends about your life. But, it isn’t healthy if you feel anxious about sharing everything.

They will understand if they are true friends. But if they are being too unreasonable and continue to judge you because of your family’s money, do rethink your friendship.

It’s possible – and normal – to be friends with people who come from backgrounds different from your own. After all, the key to developing and maintaining friendships depends on the interests you share and how you communicate and resolve conflicts.

Hope it helps, Friend of a Friend

These questions were answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under their “Shall We Talk” initiative, jointly organised with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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