If you’re a parent then you might have felt that gut-wrenching fear in the pit of your stomach that one day your child may encounter abuse. You may even feel helpless to prevent it. Parenting comes with so many joys and new experiences and we want to protect our children from harm.
You may never have thought about the word “secret” and what it implies and also how damaging it could be if used in the wrong way. Secrecy is a key factor to the sexual abuse of a child and the perpetrator counts on that fact. Often someone intending on sexually abusing a child will prepare the child by offering small secrets first to see if they will keep the bigger secrets later. By teaching children that secrets are not a part of your family’s values it lessens the likelihood that they would be susceptible to someone else’s secrets.
By teaching your children that you don’t keep secrets, even about minute things, you are also instilling in them that they don’t have to keep big and unsafe secrets, like someone hurting them or touching them inappropriately. I am not an advocate for scaring children into thinking our society is evil and that no one can be trusted. No parent wants to think about their child being abused or groomed to be abused. The reality is, it sometimes happens and preparing your children to know what to do is crucial. Your children can still feel safe and young but also be equipped with skills to communicate what is going on in their life.
Instead of secrets, consider the concept of having surprises. The definition of a surprise is usually that something is kept quiet momentarily and when it is revealed people are happy to hear it. Father’s day was just a few weeks ago and my children were both so excited to share their homemade gifts with their Dad. They knew the gifts would be a happy surprise, with a time frame built in on when to share it. Use opportunities like gifts to remind your children that the receiver of the surprise will be happy you’ve shared it and that it is not something you keep quiet for forever.
By ending secrets within your home you can increase communication and trust with your children and may prevent them from being vulnerable to forms of abuse. For more information about preventing child abuse or learning about Body Safety Rules visit parentingsafechildren.com.
I am a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist practicing in the Lake Norman area of North Carolina. I enjoy working with people on improving their lives, relationships and feeling all around more mentally healthy.
Michelle A Coomes MA, LMFT 704-237-0814