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Letting your child have secrets

Letting your child have secrets

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The delicate balance of letting your child have secrets whilst still supporting them is something most parents will have to deal with at some point. The process of letting your child go whilst ensuring that you are giving them what they need, is an ongoing aspect of healthy parenting throughout your relationships. In the early years it can be a delightful experience when your toddler confides absolutely everything to you and this can make parenting feel very safe and secure.

There will inevitably come stages when your child chooses to have more privacy and these are important aspects of development that if handled sensitively will help strengthen their sense of resourcefulness and trust in your ability to trust them.

What kind of secrets?

From early on in life, it can be useful to broach the subject of secrets so that an understanding of what is healthy and what isn’t becomes clear. A simple and effective message could be that secrets that cause us to harm ourselves or other people are not healthy secrets, and that it is brave and wise to share these with at least one other person who you know loves you.

Have boundaries and get others on board

Encouraging your children to have boundaries like these goes a long way in reassuring yourself when the times comes that you don’t know about every single thing that is going on for each of your precious offspring. Getting other people on board in your child’s life is also something that can help you relax when certain doors temporarily close. Enlisting friends that you trust to take on the role of god-parent or recruiting slightly older children to babysit, knowing that they will very likely become confidantes, are great moves to widening the net of support so that you can trust more in the times when your children want to close down somewhat.

Bad secrets

Letting your child have secretsIf you are very concerned about your child and believe that they are holding something in that is dangerous for them, speak with someone else that you trust first so that you can have some support for your concern. If you continue to feel worried after you have offloaded, it might be useful to speak to them about what’s going on. Find a way of letting them know that you want to respect their privacy at the same time as loving them and wanting the best for them and ask them directly if there is anything that they are feeling bothered or overwhelmed by at the moment.

If it becomes clear that they are withholding something that is hurting them, have a further conversation about who they may be able to share some information with. Let go of the attachment that it has to be you, and instead commit to an outcome that works for all of you. As much as possible, let your child lead the way in discussions so that they continue to feel a sense of having some control of the situation.

Acknowledge their desire to take responsibility for themselves and to be mature and let them know that you understand their need for confidentiality and boundaries.

It’s normal

Become aware of how you get affected by not knowing everything and ensure you have support for this. Talk through your worst fears and do reality checks on them to see if they are based on any real happenings or whether they are really just expressions of your fears and concerns. Lastly remember to normalize your reactions. Letting your children go in this way is a very normal stage of parenting and feeling some loss and concern about doing so is also very, very normal and common.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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