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Yes, grade-schoolers need and have a right to expect private time and private thoughts — and they're usually more than happy to let you know that. However, be aware of the fact that this can be a pretty tricky age on the privacy front: One day your grade-schooler may insist on bathing on her own, and the next she may beg you to sit and chat with her while she washes herself. Your child will most likely want to use the toilet, dress or undress herself, read in her room, and play with a friend away from your watchful eye. She'll also want to talk on the phone out of your earshot, and keep thoughts to herself in the form of a diary, notes, or e-mails.
Having private thoughts and possessions that no one else can see or touch — especially her family — has great appeal for your grade-schooler. That's why diaries with locks and mini-safes with combinations are so popular. Your grade-schooler may suddenly object to sharing a bedroom with her younger sibling as well, because of her desire to be alone and keep things to herself. While you may find these requests alternately funny and inconvenient, don't laugh or lose your patience. And no matter how curious you may be, resist the temptation to skim through her diary, look through her drawers, or read her notes from school friends or letters from a faraway pen pal. Instead, be sure to show a healthy respect for her wishes, just as you want her to honor your requests for privacy. If you're worried about what she's doing, get to know her friends, find out what's happening at school, ask about what she does when she hangs out with her pals. If you're still concerned, seek help.
It's also important at this age to keep reinforcing to your child that she can create boundaries around her body and that exercising a right to privacy is a natural part of growing up. She should know by now, for instance, that nobody else should touch her genitals and that she shouldn't tolerate anyone touching her inappropriately. She's also within her rights to reject a hug (even if it's from Grandma) or other physical displays of affection if she chooses. Also, make it clear that masturbation is a personal activity done in the privacy of her bedroom or the bathroom. Above all, take comfort in the fact that by telling you she wants to be by herself, your grade-schooler is showing healthy signs of her increasing independence.
Respecting her boundaries, though, doesn't mean she has carte blanche over her world. If, for instance, it's not possible for her to have her own bedroom, then think with her how she can carve out her own space. You could work with her to put up partitions together or designate a desk in the room that's off-limits to her younger brother or sister. And you'll want to set ground rules to show that while you understand her desire for privacy, you still have to look out for her. When your child asks you to leave her alone in her room for extended periods of time, for instance, respond matter-of-factly: "I understand you want to be alone right now with the door closed. So I'll head downstairs for half an hour. I'll be sure to knock when I come back to check on you."