Keeping secrets

November 17th, 2013 @   -  No Comments

 “I’m going to tell you something but don’t tell anyone”.

 Children have secrets just like adults, but we usually disregard them as small and trifling. Because of this often-held view, we don’t always give a lot of thought to our responses.  Certainly, their secrets are not always trivial and they can sometimes be very significant and even life changing. Some adults choose to humour the child and listen, but that is not always the case. Yet, the consequences of our choice to listen and keep their secrets are significant. So how should you approach a child’s secrets? How do you teach your child to deal with secrets?

Keep your child’s secrets

Do children usually confide in you? Reflect on what you are doing now and what you have done in the past that contributed to this. When a child tries to talk to you, do you listen? Are the lines of communication open so he or she can speak freely without fear? When a child comes to you and tells you something in confidence, what do you usually do? Which secrets should you keep and which should you disclose?

A child may tell you something in secret and ask you to promise not to reveal it to anyone. Sometimes, it may seem trivial to you but it is not so to the child. So keep his secret no matter how silly it may seem in order for the child to continue trusting you. If you don’t take the seemingly insignificant secrets seriously now, he may not confide in you again in the future even if it is something significant. The child will learn not to trust you with his secrets.

Don’t make a promise to keep a secret then break it. If you are in a position (such as at school) where a child may confide in you about something dangerous or harmful that cannot be kept secret, do not lie to the child in advance by promising to keep what he says secret. If the child insists on keeping it a secret, try to persuade him as to the benefits of not keeping the issue a secret or minimize the number of people who are privy to the issue, especially if it is a source of embarrassment to the child.

 Types of secrets

Very young children may not understand the concept of secrets, but once they are old enough to understand, teach them about privacy and confidentiality. Often, children will repeat whatever they hear. So adults should take care not to say something they don’t want repeated elsewhere. However, if it does happen and if the child is old enough, it can be a good teaching opportunity. Explain to the child that not everything that they hear or that happens should be shared in public, even if no one told them to keep it a secret. Examples can help set the boundaries of what and when it is acceptable and unacceptable to share.

Possibly the trickiest aspect of teaching children about secrets is to help them differentiate between harmless and harmful secrets. Children should learn to build trust by maintaining confidentiality and safeguarding secrets, but only if that secret does not pose a safety issue to them or others. If a secret makes them uneasy or uncomfortable or it hurts them or others, it is a harmful secret. Again, examples can help the child to understand the boundaries and to determine whether a secret is harmful or not. Use hypothetical situations to explain possible differences. If they are unsure whether to share a secret with you or not, tell them to pose the issue as a hypothetical or general scenario and take it from there. This method can put the child at ease and help you gauge the need for your involvement.



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