It’s important for children never to keep secrets—but telling them so can confuse them, especially younger children. If they went with Daddy last week to buy Mommy a birthday present, and Daddy told them not to tell Mommy, that’s a secret too, right?
Secrets and Surprises: The Difference
You can explain that this kind of secret is a surprise. A surprise is the kind of secret we want people to find out eventually—like on Mommy’s birthday. Secrets about touching or other forms of sexual abuse on the other hand, are secrets that offenders want children to keep forever—and they will put pressure on children to keep the abuse secret.
Secrets About Sexual Abuse
Children need to know they should never keep secrets that break safety rules for private body parts. They need to know to tell an adult as soon as they can. Reassure your children that it is okay to break a promise not to tell a secret about touching. Remind children frequently not to keep unsafe secrets. Tell them you will believe them, even if the secret is about someone you know.
Instruct children always to tell a trusted adult about a problem involving touching or other kinds of sexual abuse, even it has gone on for a long time. Reassure children that it is never too late to tell someone about this kind of problem. This encourages children to feel safe in disclosing abuse, even if it has been going on for a while.
Tell children to keep telling trusted adults until someone believes them. Help your children understand that if the first person they tell does not believe them, they should tell someone else and keep telling until someone helps them.