What can we tell our children to make them understand how to avoid danger without making them unnecessarily scared?
It’s all about secrets and how children perceive them. There are good secrets and bad secrets and ensuring that your children know the difference could save them from all sorts of dangers.
Good secrets are about birthday presents or surprise parties. These are happy secrets and secrets that benefit people.
Bad secrets come with threats and intent to harm someone.
Instil from a young age that there should never ever be secrets kept from mommy or daddy.
Watch out for saying things like “Don’t tell mommy you had sweets before bed”.
Keeping the channels open
This sends a message to the children that it is ok to keep secrets from mom. This can then become a learned pattern which can be used against the kids later on. For example: If a person wants to harm your child, they may say things like…”if you tell mommy, I will kill her or she will be angry with you or I will come back and hurt you.”
Make sure your kids know that they can tell you anything and that you will never be angry with them. They must know that if someone threatens them and tells them to keep it a secret, they must tell you and you will be able to sort it out – to make it better and to protect them.
They must believe that you are stronger than anyone else and that you will always be able to make any bad situation right – but only if they tell you about it.
Divorced parents are particularly at risk here because they may tend more to encourage the children to keep secrets from the other parent. E.g.…dad might innocently say “Don’t tell mommy that I bought you a new toy because she will be cross.” Or mom might say “Don’t tell dad that I broke his favourite beer mug as he will be upset.”
It confuses kids. Rather say “Oops I broke dad’s beer mug – I hope he won’t be too upset when I tell him.”
Raising fearless kids
Children must never fear coming to a parent with any information. They must know that they can tell you anything at all about themselves, their friends, school etc. You in turn must commit to reacting in an appropriate manner and ensuring that you do your best to fix the situation.
Remind children never ever to go with a stranger or to allow anyone to do anything that they feel is wrong. They must be encouraged to trust their instincts and remove themselves from the situation if they feel uncomfortable.
It is also a good idea to nominate another adult (not a parent), either a good family friend or a relative and give them the authority to assist your child in the event that they feel they cannot come to you. Explain to the child that if they ever need help, they can go to that adult and they will be helped and their secret will remain safe if that is how they want it. (This is very useful later on with teens if they get involved in drugs / gangs / pregnancy / bullying etc.)
The bottom line is….make sure your children trust you and know that you are always available to help them. This could save your family from all manner of bad situations.
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
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Do you think there’s such a thing as a “good secret”?