Keeping Secrets: Teaching Children about Safe and Unsafe Secrets
As a parent you’ve learned that words really matter. When it comes to your child’s safety, words can make a world of difference. Teaching children about safe and unsafe secrets is an important part of parenting. We’re going over some strategies for helping your kids understand the good and bad of keeping secrets.
The foundation to ensure your child’s well-being when she is outside your care is developing a strong bond with your child. You will certainly do your due diligence to put your child in safe environments with responsible caregivers and excellent supervision. But getting information about what happens when you are not around is essential to staying abreast of your child’s safety and absolutely critical when it comes to keeping secrets.
A strong bond will not only give you clues to when something may be upsetting your child based on behavior and emotional cues, but will also help your child feel comfortable communicating with you about anything and everything, including secrets she has been asked to keep. You should remind your child often that she can tell you anything and she should never be scared or embarrassed to share with you.
The next step is informing your child about secrets. Adults have the experience and emotional intelligence to know the difference between safe and unsafe secrets but this concept must be explained to children elementary age and up. Safe or good secrets include surprise parties, gifts, treats or visits. A good secret will always have a reveal date, usually in the very near future. And good secrets are special and happy in nature. Unsafe or bad secrets are those that are supposed to hide something harmful, mean or dangerous such as touching, hurting or breaking safety rules, and are usually asked to be kept for a long time or even forever.
Give your child examples of good and bad secrets to help explain the differences. As your child ages, you can readdress the topic of keeping secrets and offer more age-appropriate scenarios. Encourage your child to come to you if they are not sure if a secret is good or bad, or if they feel uncomfortable about being asked to keep a secret.
It may also be helpful to give examples of the types of tactics someone may use to get your child to keep a secret. Bribery, intimidation, pleading, threats, flattery or denial are all ways your child may be coaxed into keeping a secret. Explaining divisive ploys may assist your child in spotting a harmful secret request.
Toddlers and preschoolers may not understand safe and unsafe secrets. To avoid confusion or potential risks of keeping secrets, it is best to never ask young children to keep secrets even for playful purposes. If you show your child it’s OK to keep a secret, they may be more gullible to dangerous secrets from others.
Developing a strong and trusting bond and teaching your children about safe and unsafe secrets can help protect them from tricky people who ask them to keep harmful secrets. As a parent, setting your child up with the knowledge they need to determine safe and unsafe secrets can make all the difference
Sources: KidPower and PlayEatGrow
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