Secrets vs. Surprises- how to teach your kids the difference


I think I’m getting a Harry Potter Chess Set for Christmas from my children. How do I know? They haven’t mastered the art of whispering. I overheard my youngest whispering to their Nana (my mother-in-law) about Potter and Mama and Christmas. Nana laughed with my son as the boys and I climbed into the car.

On the way home I thought it an opportune time to discuss the difference between secrets and surprises.

My elementary aged children have been told that they cannot have any secrets with any adults who are not their parents. “But we have a surprise for you for Christmas! We can’t tell you about it!” my kids shouted back to me in the car.

“I know. And this is a surprise and soon I’ll find out about it and that’s okay. And Nana knows that I know there is a surprise. But that’s the only kind of secret you can have with anyone who isn’t Mama or Daddy.”

Good adults will never ask children to keep secrets. And good adults will let your children know that they do not keep secrets from you. I understand that there are cool aunts and uncles and that must be worked out between the adults involved, but as a general rule- Surprises, yes. Secrets, no.

Another good time to have this conversation with your kids is when you are having the conversation with your kids about strangers trying to talk to them and ask them to go places with them. You know the one- “Your mom said to come with me” or “I could really use some help.” And we let our kids know that a good adult would never ask a child for help. This is an adult you cannot trust. And that’s a good time to bring up that a truthful adult would never ask them to keep a secret.

So Merry Christmas ya filthy animals! May your secrets be minimal and your gifts abundant.


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