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Keeping Family Secrets

How do you explain to young children the idea of “keeping family secrets”.  It is a slippery slope for parents for sure, as I know I told my children “you...

How do you explain to young children the idea of “keeping family secrets”.  It is a slippery slope for parents for sure, as I know I told my children “you don’t keep secrets from mommy and daddy” and then days to weeks later I turned around and said, “this is a family secret, so don’t tell!” 

I still don’t know how you begin to explain the difference about secrets, but it has to start when your child is fairly young.  It typically starts when your 3 or 4 year old overhears you say something which you had not planned on happening. Suddenly they are telling anyone they can, “my mom is having a baby!”, or “my dad doesn’t like his boss!”. Oh dear, out of the mouth of babes, right? 

So now you are telling them that we have to keep some things secret. But not secrets about them, really just “our family secrets”.  All of those secrets and comments about neighbors, teachers, friends and even distant cousins that seem to come up over the years.  It is really the beginning of understanding social graces as well. All of these topics are so difficult to explain, especially to young, inquisitive children who just say whatever comes to their mind.   

I vividly remember this issue with our youngest child. Of course he had two  big brothers who would talk about many topics at the dinner table, some of which were probably not meant for little ears.  So, one day we went to a basketball game with big brother and baby brother says to everyone, “My mom doesn’t like the coach of this team!”  Of course he had heard this at our house.....but really?   

So, when we would talk about keeping family secrets with our children we came up with the idea of a filter. Instead of blurting out, “don’t talk about that, it is a secret”, we would say “filter”.  Even with adult children, we still sometimes have to remember “secrets” and when someone starts to slip the family says, “filter!” and every one bursts out laughing.  

Good luck with this topic at your house.  Make sure your children don’t keep their secrets from you, but that they know how to “filter” the family secrets. Can someone say AWKWARD!

 

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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