Sometimes kids don’t tell the truth. Or they withhold information that you need to be able to guide them better through life. Knowing why kids keep secrets will help you know how to communicate with your children better.
Here are three reasons why kids keep dangerous secrets:
1. Your family isn’t transparent. Kids understand the culture of your family better than you realize. For example, in our family, when my husband leaves for his 12-Step group on Wednesday night and my five year old asks where he’s going, we say, “Daddy’s going to his 12-Step Meeting.” My son hasn’t asked yet what 12-Step is, but if he did, we would say, “It’s a meeting to help him overcome his mistakes.” Similarly, we talk openly about pornography, addiction and other difficult topics at our house. He knows there are no secrets, and that he can ask anything and get an honest (age-appropriate) answer.
In fact, we have a rule, “Our family has no secrets.” All topics are open for discussion. Contrast that with a family culture that lacks transparency, where children get answers like, “We’ll tell you when you’re older.” Or “that’s none or your business” or “that’s something we don’t talk about in our family.”
Your child will pick up on the level of transparency in your household and follow your example. If you want your child to be transparent with you about what is happening in their life, model what transparency looks like for them.
2. Your child is afraid if he tells you the truth, you’ll be mad. When you’re child tells you the truth, always praise them for telling the truth, “I’m so glad you told me the truth”. Don’t over-react or shame them. Empathize with what has happened. For example, if your son comes to you and says, “I hit my brother.” Say, “Thanks for telling me the truth about what happened. Looks like you need a time out for a minute.”
Here’s another example. Your son tells you he broke the neighbors window. You say, “What a bummer! Thanks for telling the truth. I’m sorry that happened. How did it happen? How do you feel? What do you think you should do now?”
You don’t have to over-react or shame them (i.e. How could you do that? What’s wrong with you!) in order to deal with the real issue.
3. Your child is worried that if she tells you the truth, you’ll take away her phone.
When it comes to telling their parents about pornography exposure, many kids don’t say anything because they don’t want their technology taken away. There are a variety of other ways to respond to your child when they tell you about seeing pornography on their device. Make sure if this happens, you talk openly about how they feel and keep the door open to a layered dialogue. Ask them if they would feel more safe with a filter on their phone, and talk about ways to avoid seeing on other kids devices or in other’s homes. One way is to coach your children to ask someone, “What is it?” when a child holds their phone out and says, “Hey, look at this.”
For more about how to help your child avoid addiction, a free webinar is available at Addo Recovery.