Last night, on the way to soccer practice, my youngest daughter started to tell me something about a friend of hers, but then said "I can't tell you; it's a secret." Now, secrets are different than surprises and every child needs to know the difference between a good secret, or surprise, and a bad secret that can end in someone getting hurt.
I want to address the topic of secrets today because I think it's incredibly important for our kids to know the difference between a happy surprise and a harmful secret. Unfortunately, there are people in this world who will use a child's willingness to keep a secret to abuse that child. You want your kids to know that keeping secrets about being hurt or about their friends being hurt is wrong.
This is a tough conversation to have for some parents, but if we're not open and honest with our kids about it, we put them at risk. Ephesians 5:11-13 says "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible." By teaching your kids to not keep secrets about things that can hurt them or others is biblical. We are to expose the "fruitless deeds of darkness."
Please don't hesitate to talk with your kids about child abuse. Sometimes we hold back because we don't want our kids to be afraid of everyone, but you can talk with your kids and set up parameters for keeping happy secrets and telling a trusted adult when it's a secret that shouldn't be kept. And we can do it without making them afraid of everyone.
- The next time the topic of secrets comes up, use the moment to talk with your kids about what constitutes a good secret and a bad one. Share Ephesians 5:11-13 with your kids, and ask them what they think would constitute a "fruitless deed of darkness." Talk about how some secrets are a way of keeping things hidden because they are wrong. Explain to your kids that they should never keep any secret about someone, including themselves, if it involves that person getting hurt or possibly getting hurt. Help your child identify trusted adults that they could talk to.
- Give your children different situations, and ask them if it's a secret they should keep or one they should share. For example, ask them if they were planning a surprise party for their dad would that be a secret to keep or share. Then ask if one of their friends told them that a friend of their mom's was hurting them if that's a secret they should keep or share. Keep playing out situations in a non-threatening way to help your kids think through a situation before it happens.
- Talk honestly with your children about the fact that some adults abuse kids. Let them know that if an adult ever hurts them, touches them or makes them uncomfortable that no matter who that person is or what that person tells them, they should tell an adult that they trust. Reassure your kids that most adults in the world are not out to hurt children.