Is it ever ok to keep secrets from your parents?

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
People reveal the biggest secrets they've kept from their parents
People reveal the biggest secrets they've kept from their parents

Is it ever ok to keep secrets from your parents?

For example, how much money you make, your sexual orientation, if you are single or dating, or your chosen religion?  

In a recent forum many adults shared the biggest secrets they've kept from their parents, whether as children or as adults, and some are surprising, while others are saddening. 

This got us thinking so we asked psychologist Enzo Sinisi to weigh in on the topic of keeping secrets, asking him is it ever ok to keep secrets from your parents?  


Top Secret: I met the guy my mom told me was my real father. We did a DNA test and there is a 0% chance [that he is my biological father]. I’ve never told her. - Reddit post 

He tells Parent24 that the word "secrets" is loaded and implies deception, manipulation, and a few other unsavoury things.

"I prefer 'private'", he says.

"And yes, of course its perfectly acceptable, at any age, to have a private life, even from your parents. In fact, I would say that this forms part of the developmental process through which we evolve boundaries, a clear identity as a separate human being, and trust in our having a mind of our own."   


Top Secret: That I'm a lesbian. And that that "friend" who I don't invite home anymore is actually my ex. - Reddit post

"That’s not to say that following every impulse to be private is a step towards maturity," he clarifies.

"Sometimes, our feelings run way ahead of our thinking and knowing. Paying attention to why you want to keep something private often helps you understand yourself: are you insecure about something?,  and your relationships: is this a safe place? - more deeply," he says. 


Top Secret: I make more money than I let on. My parents have and will always be the "I take care of you all your life, time for you to pay it back" type of parent. Except there is no end to this "debt". So I hide money from them so they can't take advantage of me. -  Reddit post
 Sinisi adds that there is of course a world of difference between wanting to keep something private because sharing it would place you at risk (such as your sexuality), versus spoil something (such as a birthday present idea), versus harm a relationship (such as some critical thought). 

What are the risks of keeping secrets? 

This will have a lot to do with the nature of what is being kept private, Sinisi says.


Top Secret: I crashed my boyfriends car when I was 16. He took the fall, because I wouldn't have been able to get my license for years. - Reddit post   

"Very often, people do eventually discover that something was kept from them. Thinking of things as private rather than secret also allows for you to be open about the fact that there are things that you are not sharing," he explains.

This is probably be the biggest difference between a private thought and a secret. "In this way, you are somewhat protected against people feeling betrayed when and if they discover what’s been kept from them. This limits the damage done to the relationship," he adds.

Sinisi says that, more than that, establishing a relationship in which it becomes acceptable to have private thoughts, adds to the strength of the relationship by building trust and mutual respect.


Top Secret: My depression and the fact I nearly failed out of first year, because I couldn't handle university. - Reddit post  

"Sometimes, our secrets have more to do with hiding damaging or shameful facts from people who we care about, in fear that they may judges of be disappointed. Some examples include instances of self-destructive behaviour, events that trigger feelings of shame (sexual assault), or items that you know will trigger unwanted, but possibly necessary, consequences (that you are addicted to tik)," he says. 

Keeping these matters to yourself also cuts you off from potential help and even lifesaving support that others might bring, he warns.


Top Secret: Stole money for weed and regret it to this day. My lazy ass should've just gotten a job instead. - Reddit post   

"If you are keeping things private, out of shame, from loved ones who are likely to care deeply, be on your side, and try to help, then it is worth reconsidering your strategy. Shame is a painful emotion that, as excruciating as it may be, can reduce on exposure." 

When might it be a good idea to keep information to yourself? 

Sinisi says any time where sharing the information is likely to cause unnecessary pain or damage that is greater than the potential good. 

"Sensitive information should not be shared with people that cant be trusted to treat that information (and you) with due respect. More broadly, information that you don’t yet feel comfortable to share and that is unlikely to cause harm by being kept private need not be shared," he assures us. 

Chatback:

Share your stories and questions with us via email at chatback@parent24.com. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Don't miss a story!

For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.

Follow us, and chat, on Facebook and Twitter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 500 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 6162 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
11% - 810 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.87
+1.1%
Rand - Pound
20.16
+0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.50
+1.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.62
-0.4%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+1.1%
Gold
1,696.36
+2.1%
Silver
20.65
+8.5%
Palladium
2,239.50
+3.4%
Platinum
903.50
+4.5%
Brent Crude
85.14
-2.4%
Top 40
57,850
+0.8%
All Share
64,227
+0.8%
Resource 10
61,646
+2.4%
Industrial 25
77,524
+0.2%
Financial 15
13,816
+0.1%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE