Safe and unsafe secrets: what is the difference?
Unpacking secrets for children
Hello readers. I hope this finds you well. For this blog, I have decided to focus on the issue of children keeping secrets. I am going to delve into a few different areas of personal safety over my next few blogs, all of which are entwined into my book. But today it’s all about secrets!
Okay, let’s begin…! For the purpose of this blog I want you to imagine a child under the age of ten years. Let’s say between four and ten years old. Now imagine that this child is keeping a secret. What automatically springs to mind? Did you imagine the child keeping a safe and harmless secret or did you imagine an unsafe secret that could pose a threat to them when kept? Maybe you have never entertained this notion or thought before. Maybe you just thought that childhood secrets were all simple, innocent, and fun. If so, you would be WRONG! Some secrets can be so damaging to a child and can impact them traumatically both short and long term.
Well today while you are reading this blog, we are going to unpack the difference between the two and see the importance of teaching children all about safe and unsafe secrets.
I think we will start by looking at safe secrets. When I have worked with children on this topic, I have often also used the term good secrets instead of safe secrets. Some children understand this term easier. Explain to children that a safe/ good secret, is a secret that when kept make us:
· Feel happy
· Feel warm and cosy
Safe secrets are usually only kept for a short time and everyone involved with the secret feels good, happy and safe.
Lets now look at unsafe secrets. You can also explain the term of unsafe secrets to a child as keeping a bad secret if you like. When a child keeps an unsafe/bad secret they can:
· Feel scared
· Feel Worried
· Could be In danger
· Feel Sad
· Feel Sick in the tummy
· Get a headache
Unsafe secrets are usually kept for a long time making the child feel anxious and overwhelmed. They can feel the need to keep the secret as they may have been threatened by the person telling them the secret.
In summary, let children know that if a secret makes them and others feel happy and it is fun and is not about anyone getting hurt then that is okay. Let children know that It is never okay to keep a secret that makes them feel worried or scared or unsafe. They must go and talk to an adult that they trust straight away.
Now that we have had a look at the different feelings and body clues associated with safe and unsafe secrets, I want to give you some examples of good and bad secrets that you can utilise and discuss with children.
Safe secret examples:
1. Keeping a secret about a surprise birthday party
2. Keeping a secret about a present for someone
3. Keeping a secret about a upcoming holiday
4. Keeping a secret about surprise flowers for the teacher
5. Keeping a secret about a new house your family is buying
6. Keeping a secret about getting a new car
7. Keeping a secret about your favourite colour.
Unsafe secret examples:
1. Keeping a secret about someone touching your body without your consent
2. Keeping a secret about someone hurting you
3. Keeping a secret about someone else being hurt
4. Keeping a secret about being bullied
5. Keeping a secret about someone stealing
6. Keeping a secret about someone showing you rude photos or pictures
7. Keeping a secret about someone hurting your feeling.
Have a go yourself now and make up a few safe and unsafe secrets that you could use to help children distinguish between the two types of secrets.
I don’t think it is ever too early to have a conversation about safe and unsafe secrets with children. We need to encourage children to go and talk to a trusted adult that they know and feel comfortable with if they are feeling upset about anything. The following links will take you to the Kid’s Helpline website. The pages look at unsafe secrets and offer helpful advice for dealing with children and teens.
I have written my beautiful children’s book to help children learn about what happens when you keep an unsafe secret. Blossom Bunny finds out that it is not fun to keep a bad secret and has some very strong worrying feelings until she tells a trusted grown up.
When looking at child abuse statistics, unfortunately, 70-90% of children are sexually abused by someone that they or the family knows.
Keeping this a secret often occurs as the child is scared or threatened by the perpetrator. We need to empower our children to speak up. We need to equip them with the skills to learn about personal safety. Blossom Bunny’s secret will do just that! Until next time…