Talk with your children about the difference between a “surprise” and a “secret” and teach your children that family members and friends don’t keep secrets from or about each other, even about small, seemingly harmless things.
Surprises make people happy, they are short-term and knowing about them does not make people uncomfortable. Secrets are meant to exclude others, often because the information would cause others to be angry or upset, and secrets have no set end-date. Secrets can cause people to feel sad, scared or confused.
Encourage your child to tell a Safe Adult if someone asks them to keep a secret. Reassure them that it is always okay for them to break a secret or promise when it involves touches and body parts. Also let your child know that no matter who a secret involves or how long it has gone on, you will always believe them and do what you can to support their safety.
Help your child identify concrete examples of secrets versus surprises:
- You got a present for a birthday party and aren't supposed to say anything until they open it. (Surprise)
- A grandparent gave you a piece of candy and told you not to tell your parents. (Secret)
- Someone in your class has been hurting your feelings and hitting you, and now you don't like going to school. (Secret)
- You baked cookies for you teacher on the last day of class and you are excited to surprise her. (Surprise)
- A cousin showed you a scary movie and said you'd be in trouble and not to tell. (Secret)
- Someone takes a picture of you and asks you not to tell (Secret)