After your children have a better understanding about their Body Parts, setting Boundaries, and how to Be Brave: Yell and Tell, then we move onto our next B, which is Bust Secrets.
Because predators use highly manipulative behavior in order to keep a child quiet, which includes secrets, then we must teach our children that nobody is allowed to tell us secrets and we aren’t allowed to tell secrets either. We must first be very specific and explain to the child that a secret is when someone tells us something and then asks us not to tell anyone, ever (they may say, “This is our little secret”). One way to teach this age group is by using visual tools. For example, you could give the child a water balloon and tell them it represents a secret. Then show them that instead of keeping the water balloon you want them to bust it by throwing it on the ground. So, if anyone tells them a secret, just like the balloon, you want them to bust it by telling you what they were asked not to tell. Tell them that it’s very important to tell you if anyone asks them to keep a secret so you can keep them safe. It’s important to empower our children by reinforcing to them that if anybody wants to tell them a secret, to first say, “No secrets allowed here” and then they should go tell another adult they were asked to keep a secret and by whom.
Your children will likely practice this knowledge with you. The word, secret, is used often in movies, TV shows, and songs. So, your child may point it out to you when they hear the word, secret. They may practice by saying, “Mom, they said secrets!” Please always encourage your children by saying things like, “Wow! You have great listening ears.” Or you could say, “I know…can you believe they said secrets again?” You could follow up by saying, “WE don’t tell secrets, do we?” Again, it’s important to reinforce their behavior of having that conversation with you. Because the word is used quite often, you will have plenty of opportunities to reinforce not telling secrets.
They might also come home and tell you that another child tried to tell them a secret. Again, reinforce this behavior by first thanking them for telling you, and then ask what the secret was. It is then up to you, as the adult, to decipher if the secret was of any concern or risk. It most likely won’t be; however, we always want to reinforce that the child always comes home to tell the parents about any secrets that have been told.
Our company recommends using other words in place of the word, secret. We use the word, ‘surprise’, when talking about presents because surprises are always found out. We use the word, ‘filter,’ when teaching children about not saying everything we are thinking, such as, “Mommy, that lady is fat.” We explain to our children that maybe from their perspective that lady may be overweight, but we must use our filter and keep that thought to ourselves. We also use the word, ‘confidential’, when another adult tells us something that needs to stay between us because of privacy reasons. However, the word secret, by definition implies something is being concealed from others, which is generally unhealthy, especially with children.
When first discussing this concept with a counselor, she mentioned that secrets are okay; but, we need to teach our children to be able to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ secrets. However, I believe that type of cognitive skill is a lot for a three year old to be able to accomplish. So, at Bailey Bee Believes, we will continue to encourage you to educate your 2-6 year olds that no secret is a good one. I strongly believe that the deciphering of if it is a ‘good’ secret or a ‘bad’ secret is up to the adult. It will also form that communication bridge for your children to always come to you at an early age to discuss this with you. The more they are discussing this concept with you and the more you are reinforcing it, the more likely it will be they will come to you if someone has made them feel uncomfortable, is grooming them, or sexually abusing them.
Jennifer Hillman is a mother of two, licensed speech-language pathologist, producer of the award-winning educational DVD, “The Five B’s”, and an active advocate and speaker for sexual abuse prevention education in the home, churches and in schools.
For more information on this topic and Bailey Bee Believes® award-winning educational DVD on empowering children about body safety to prevent sexual abuse, go to www.baileybeebelieves.com.