4 Tips for Talking to Children about Secrets
There is an estimated 39 million survivors of sexual abuse in America. Experts believe 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted by the age of 18 with 9 years old being the average age of reported abuse. It is a sad fact that many adults seeking counseling for surviving sexual abuse have kept horrible secrets since childhood that have negatively impacted many, if not all areas of their life. When the physical aspect of the abuse stops, the survivor continues to be abused by the secrets they hold and the ongoing confusion and dysfunctional beliefs they must try to reconcile as they mature into adulthood.
A Secret is most often defined as “A piece of information that is known by only a small number of people and is deliberately not told to other people.” Children can be encourage to keep the horrible secrets by being manipulated with kindness, being convinced they are the ones doing wrong, or by being threatened with violence against them or someone they love.
Being Sexually Abused is a very dangerous secret to keep because it can be a cause of the survivor developing an eating disorder, abusing drugs and alcohol, suicidal thoughts, sexual addictions and destructive behavior, and becoming sexual abusers themselves.
Responsible adults must be proactive in helping to protect children from sexual abuse. The ugly truth is that the abuser is often the person whose role it is to protect the child. For this reason, parents, grandparents, extended family, teachers, pastors, youth leaders, and friends should consider talking openly with children to educate them about secrets.
4 Tips for Talking to Children About Secrets:
- There is no such thing as a “good secret”. Children can get confused if we try to explain the difference between good and bad secrets, so it is best to teach a child that if someone tells them to keep a secret, they should always tell you what the secret is. Building trust with a child is important so they feel safe and confident in telling their secret.
- Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise. For example, you can explain to a child that a surprise is when daddy tells you what mommy is getting on Friday for her birthday. It is okay to not tell mommy the surprise because she will know on Friday. A Surprise is something that everyone will know soon. A Secret is something that someone tells you not to tell anyone. No matter what the secret is, it is always okay to tell Daddy. This conversation is good to have multiple times with children and adolescents to reinforce the difference between a secret and a surprise, and to reinforce to them that they have a safe person they can trust to tell their secrets.
- Start Talking Soon and Often: Begin talking with your child at an early age and educating them about their body. Use opportunities that come up in every day conversation to address issues of being safe. Develop boundaries with them regarding people they know and don’t know. Discuss “what should we do” in various hypothetical situations, including ones that involve someone touching them inappropriately or talking to them inappropriately about sex. This will help them develop their critical thinking skills and be less likely to keep secrets.
- Always say, “I Believe You”. No matter what the secret is or who the secret is about, it is very important to be sure to always verbalize that you believe children of all ages when they tell you a secret. One of the ways abusers get children to keep secrets is by convincing them that no one will believe them. If someone who is being abused tells their secret and they are not believed, they most likely will continue to be abused and not tell anyone again.
When a child keeps the secret of abuse, regardless of the form of abuse, their body, mind, and spirit are violated and impacted negatively forever. Abuse can never be “forgotten”, but the survivor can heal from the horrific effects of physical and psychological damage and experience a life of health and harmony through counseling. The healing process can’t begin until the secret is told to someone who will believe them and take action to support them in seeking help.
Even Santa Can’t Please Everyone…
Do you remember the disappointment you felt when you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas as a child? Although you may have felt devastated in the moment, you got over it and enjoyed the other gifts and time with your family. The truth is that even Santa can’t please everyone so why do we think we can?
If we are going to enjoy the holidays, we have to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much we want to…we just can’t please everyone. Let’s face it, we just have to say “no” to some of our loved ones, friends, and co-workers during the holidays. We simply can’t please everyone – no matter how much we want to. Unfortunately, there will be parties, events, and family get-togethers we will not be able to attend because of overlapping schedules, finances, and priorities. To avoid feeling overwhelmed or guilty when you have to say “no”, make sure you spend some time prioritizing and deciding what you can and can’t do ahead of time regarding finances, events, and traditions.
1. Saying “No” will be much easier when you and your family create a budget and decide how to spend the money together. Creating a holiday budget only takes a short amount of time, but can save a large amount of stress during this time of year. Decide on a dollar amount to spend over the Holiday season for gifts, parties, outfits, food, and travel – and stick to it! Without a budget, you will overspend and the financial strain will be a source of stress long after the holidays are over.
First, decide on the amount of money you can spend over the entire season. If you are married, make this decision with your spouse so the two of you work together as a team to support each other and have accountability to avoid over spending.
Second, make a list of costs beginning with “Have To” and ending with “Want To”. Be sure to create the list with your spouse and children so you can designate money for everyone that allows you to stay within your budget. If there is not enough money for all the “want to” items, try being creative as a family and come up with ideas to reduce gift, food, and travel costs that may allow you to afford the “want to’s” on your list.
2. Saying “No” will be much easier when you decide what events you can and can’t attend after prioritizing them according to your family’s schedule and financial budget. Job, neighborhood and organization parties, church and school programs, family gatherings, and community events! The invitations and commitments can be overwhelming. Attending all of these events will be impossible, but the thoughts of missing any of them can be so disappointing. As your calendar begins to fill up, set aside some time to prioritize what events you will attend – and prepare to decline the ones you will not be attending. The most difficult part of saying “No” to attending an event is telling the person who invited you because you don’t want to hurt their feeling or miss an opportunity to spend time with the people attending. The worst thing to do is to not RSVP or just not show up. Understand that the person may be disappointed and may not understand why you can’t attend, but responding to the invitation is the best way to keep a good relationship with them. Don’t feel you have to always give a detailed reason for not attending, because people may not understand your priorities. Simply letting them know you have another obligation is a sufficient decline. Be sure to be kind and genuine in letting them know that you appreciate the invitation, but will not be able to attend and remind yourself that you have to say “no” at times to events you want to attend – even during the holidays.
3. Saying “No” will be much easier when you and your spouse decide what Traditions are important to your family. Every family has annual holiday traditions they enjoy year after year and are an important part of creating special memories. However, when you get married and start your own family, it is impossible to continue to meet the expectations of keeping all the traditions you both grew up with including pleasing both sets of in-laws every year while also trying to accommodate traditions with your friends and co-workers.
Trying to make your boss, in-laws, and friends happy can place an enormous amount of stress on your marriage and family. Take some time with your spouse to talk about the family traditions you each cherish from childhood, the ones you would like to continue, and the new ones you would like to begin with your family. Once you decide on the traditions for your family, saying “No” to in-laws, co-workers, and friends will be much easier. For example, telling your in-laws you will be spending the day at your own home instead of coming to theirs may hurt their feelings, but being in agreement as a couple will help you come up with ways to compromise some aspects of the changes and continue to enjoy the holidays. Perhaps inviting your in-laws, friends, and co-workers to join one of your new traditions, or informing each of these groups about traditions you have with the other groups may help in scheduling events that will enable you to attend, or at least increase the understanding of why you may not be able to attend.
Saying “No” is a must during the holidays in order to avoid financial, emotional, physical and/or marital stress. Try these ideas to make saying “No” easier and then just enjoy creating special memories instead of being stressed out trying to please everyone.