As my oldest grows up we are starting to see some new social situations. Secrets have become the currency of the tween social scene. She hears secrets from her friends daily and keeps them from people at her discretion. This could stress me out but it doesn’t. I have a strategy for handling secrets with tweens.
Handling Secrets with Tweens
Secrets in and of themselves are not bad things. We all have parts of ourselves we don’t want to share. As my daughter grows into an adult, I wanted to give her some freedom with having secrets from me and her dad as well as some very clear outlines. There is a phrase you will hear around my house if you are here when my tween starts to tell a story involving anything secret.
“It’s ok mom, she’s safe.”
One of the biggest fears of most parents when it comes to secrets is that their child is somehow unsafe or that they are keeping an unsafe secret. Part of our boundaries with secrets is that there is a broken secret clause.
If your friend tells you a secret about hurting themselves, hurting someone else, or someone hurting them(abuse, sexual assault, serious bullying) then that is no longer a secret.
We have talked extensively about the importance of caring enough about our friends to share when they are not safe. I have shared with her that sometimes a secret like this is really a cry for help from someone scared to ask for help.
As a family, we have seen addiction and suicide steal people from us that we love and hate to do life without. I shared that this we must stand in the gap for our friends and get them the help they need.
(If you have a teen, let them know about the crisis text line. Text crisis to 741741. They can share this with a friend to help them get the help they need.)
Secrets teach a lesson
I have a lot of friends who swear secrets are a horrible idea for tweens. While some secrets are a horrible idea, there is some good to be accomplished by teaching a tween how to handle secrets. You are teaching your child to handle a confidence and to respect the privacy of a friend.
Sometimes a friend of your child needs someone safe to talk to who isn’t going to tell everyone their story. Teaching our children that these secrets are safe to keep and are part of a quality friendship is a good lesson.
Don’t tell them all secrets are bad. Teach them which secrets are bad.
I am a strong believer in teaching my children how to have discernment. Part of that means teaching them to see a situation for what it is. Secrets that lead to someone getting hurt are bad. We have talked a lot about the fact that using secrets as a weapon in a social setting is not ok. If a secret is a way to show that you are closer friends and used to exclude someone, that is not healthy.
However, secrets that don’t hurt anyone or exclude people in a social environment can be good ones.
What secrets are a no go?
In our house, there are some secrets that are hard and fast no go secrets. These are secrets that we don’t welcome or allow. This may look different for your house. However, these are the ones that work best for our household.
- Physical Damage – If someone is doing physical damage to themselves or someone/something else, I expect to hear about this situation.
- Emotional Damage – Is a parent abusing their child? Is someone bullying someone at school? Is there damage being done that could lead to a safety issue? This needs to be addressed.
- Sexual Secrets – I believe that when dealing with tweens things to do with sex need to be addressed in a safe environment with a parent. If they know a friend is engaging in sex acts that are not appropriate for their age, I expect this to be brought to a parent’s attention. Sometimes these situations need to be addressed with a parent to be sure a child is safe.
- Drugs – With so many substances being used by young children, it really is important to keep parents aware if a tween is using an illegal substance. My daughter knows to make me aware so that I can discreetly make the parents aware for the safety of the child.
The most important thing!
The most important thing I can say is this, this is your child and you need to have the conversation that fits your family beliefs. Don’t assume your child knows what you expect them to share with you. Start early by opening up lines of communication and trust.