Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Stepfather Wants My Daughter To Keep Secrets From Me”

My husband and I have an 8-year-old daughter who, during school breaks, spends a few days holidaying with my mother and stepfather. Yesterday, she shared a story that worried me. She told me her step-grandfather (John) was taking a nap and she woke him (on purpose) by singing loudly. John got angry and said, “You stupid little rat!” and left the room. My daughter cried and told her grandmother, who brushed the incident aside. Later John told her he wasn’t calling HER a rat but had thought he saw one running across the room. My daughter said she thought he was “just making excuses” for calling her a bad name. Later, they were shopping together and my daughter asked if he would buy her a small toy and he replied he would buy it for her – but only if she promised not to tell her mum or dad what had happened. She agreed – a toy to keep quiet? Sure!

This seems like a small incident in some ways – calling my child a “stupid rat”? Not cool. But I acknowledge he was probably half-asleep, was angry and, regretted saying it. But what happened after, I feel, is very questionable. An adult must not ask a child to keep a secret and threaten that, if he or she tells, something bad might happen or, conversely, reward a child for keeping the secret. I am not suggesting that John’s behavior would escalate into any form of sexual abuse, but I am concerned about the messages his behavior sends to our daughter. Let’s say, and only by way of example, it WAS sexual. Let’s say he does something to her. And then, in defense, John frames the event differently – it wasn’t quite what she thought, it was something else that made it okay. And then he asks she not tell Mum and Dad in exchange for a toy. And finally, when she comes home to us, we praise John: “How nice of him to buy you a toy! What a kind grandfather!”

To me, the series of events – the incident, the manipulation of truth, the brushing it off as not a big deal, the conspiracy, bribery, and secrecy – is just the sort of manipulation that someone who WAS a sexual predator would undertake. What John could have done is apologize for getting angry and calling her a name. He could explain that, because she woke him up on purpose, that made him grumpy and that he was sorry because he knows he shouldn’t say mean things. And that he could tell mum and dad what happened so that they know that you were upset and cried.

My husband and I discussed whether we should to talk to my mother and John about the incident. It’s tricky – is it small enough of an incident to not warrant causing stress within the extended family? My husband leans more to letting it go, saying it may make things tense if we bring it up, but using it as an opportunity to stress to our daughter if an adult asks her to keep a secret, she must tell us. I kind of agree but argue that little kids shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of responsibility – to decide whether they should tell a secret or not. If it were a stranger asking our child to keep a secret we would consider that unacceptable but, when it’s family, it’s a bit of a grey area?? And aren’t the people closest to our children the ones who are more likely to abuse them?

I guess I’m interested in your thoughts rather than having a specific question. What expectations should we have of the adults in our children’s lives? How do we let those adults know our expectations? DO we let those adults know? What would your reaction be if this were your child?

If our 8-year-old daughter hadn’t shared what happened, then she would have been left with a memory that made her upset, with some confusion around what actually happened, a secret to keep, and parents who, on her return, praised John for being kind and generous. Substitute the name calling with sexual abuse and my blood runs cold. — No Secrets With the Kids

I get where you’re coming from, I really do. But I also think you’re over-reacting a bit, and I suspect it’s in your nature to over-react and over-think things a bit (as an example, this is a condensed version of your letter), which is why your stepfather was probably extra worried about your catching wind of his sudden outburst at your daughter and why your husband is hesitant to speak to him and your mother about your concerns regarding the incident. Furthermore, the leap you’re making from what happened to potential sexual abuse seems far-fetched if you trust your stepfather and have no reason to suspect him of such horrible behavior (and I have to assume you don’t or you wouldn’t leave your young daughter in his care!).

I see these series of events — “the incident, the manipulation of truth, the brushing it off as not a big deal, the conspiracy, bribery, and secrecy” — as an opportunity for a very important lesson for your young daughter. But it’s up to you what the lesson will be. You could confront your stepfather and mother and they could get defensive in return. There could be, as your husband is especially concerned about, tension among all of you as a result of your confronting them. That tension may very well affect your daughter’s relationship with her grandparents. Will they still want to babysit her? Maybe not. Will your stepdad still welcome her as warmly in his home, knowing she “told on him”? Maybe not. And then what message would that send to your daughter? That when she shares secrets adults have told her to keep, the adults get angry and relationships strain?

On the other hand, you could tell your daughter how proud you are of her for trusting you and for doing the right thing, which is to tell you when an adult asks her to keep a secret. You could confirm and validate that her grandfather isn’t in trouble — that her sharing his secret isn’t getting him in trouble. But since he failed to handle the incident the right way, which would have been, as you acknowledge, to explain that, because she woke him up on purpose, it made him grumpy and that he was sorry for calling her a name as a result, you have to deliver that message for him. Explain to your daughter that adults sometimes make mistakes — even her grandfather, even you — and that it doesn’t mean they love her any less. And then you can ask her how the whole thing made her feel and talk about that a bit. Give her an opportunity to share any concerns she has. Keep the dialogue open rather than shutting it down by sending the message that sharing secrets makes everyone upset and angry and potentially changes relationships.

Finally, it’s too late to protect your daughter from the responsibility of deciding whether or not to share a secret. It already happened. And she chose correctly. You can’t control anyone else. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts to keep her safe, your daughter may be faced again with a similar decision — and next time it could involve someone whose intentions are far less pure. Do you really want her second-guessing a decision to share a secret with you because she remembered when she shared a secret before and everyone got upset and hurt and angry?

There are times to get upset and hurt and angry, and I don’t think this is one of them. You’ve got to pick your battles in life, and especially in interpersonal relationships, and I’m afraid that, if this is one you pick, you may lose a more important one in the future (or not have a chance of fighting it at all).

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

29 comments… add one
  • avatar

    K May 2, 2016, 12:35 pm

    I agree with Wendy’s advice. I don’t agree with John asking LW’s daughter to keep it a secret – that’s not right. However, I think the LW shouldn’t do anything further regarding this particular incident. It seems like a stretch to think that John could be a sexual predator, simply because he is a grumpy old man who was woken up unexpectedly and said something he shouldn’t have. I do think the LW is over-reacting. If he has never called your daughter names before, I would just keep an eye/ear out to see if anything like this ever happens again.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros May 2, 2016, 12:42 pm

    I like Wendy’s advice. But I also think that it’s OK to ask him not to teach your kid to lie to you. That’s pretty reasonable. And for most people, I don’t think that would create the kind of massive conflict that would scare the daughter away from telling her parents about secrets she is asked to keep. Unless I missed something.

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  • avatar

    blink14 May 2, 2016, 12:50 pm

    This seems like a major leap, so it seems like you are either one to exaggerate/overthink things, or potentially some sort of abuse happened to you when you were a child and you are seeing a “warning sign” where there may not actually be one.

    At some point, if it hasn’t happened already, something is going to come up when you are alone with your daughter, or your husband is alone with her, and you’ll say “let’s not tell Daddy” or he’ll say “let’s not tell Mommy.” Its a pretty common thing, and I remember my own stepdad saying that, because we knew certain things would kind of set off my mom and we tried to avoid it for everyone’s sake. I bet you’ve also at some point bribed your daughter to do something – finishing her dinner equals a treat or special playtime, not acting out in public equals TV time at home, etc. Again also really normal things.

    Its also normal for adults to react badly in front a kid and then feel remorseful about it – aka, buying your daughter a gift to keep it quiet and to also silently apologize. I think you should keep silent on this for now, and watch for anything else that pops up in the future.

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  • avatar

    saneinca May 2, 2016, 12:54 pm

    LW, I think John should not have told your daughter to keep a secret. But then he should not have to apologize for a justified scolding either. Kids need to know their limits. But may be he did that because he knew you would fuss. ( as Wendy guessed )

    On the other hand, you should tell your daughter not wake up people if they are sleeping, and not to pester them to buy gifts.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie May 2, 2016, 12:54 pm

    I agree with Wendy. This is a great chance to teach your daughter when and how to trust and confide in you. Unfortunately, when you leave your children in the unpaid care of another, you need to submit to their ‘parenting’ decisions. It is a give and take. No one can parent exactly like you do. I do not agree with John in the least, but I do think it is something you have to consider when letting someone else care for your child. In this case, I think it is better to have this teachable moment for your daughter – you won’t be able to chastise an abuser – then get defensive with your family.

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  • FireStar

    Firestar May 2, 2016, 1:12 pm

    The lesson isn’t for your step father. That ultimately doesn’t protect your child going forward in dealing with other adults asking to keep secrets – for potentially nefarious reasons. The lesson is for your child. And to teach her – as a rule – we don’t keep secrets. Any adult asking to keep a secret you say no. Full stop. You can talk about the difference between surprises and secrets. You can talk about keeping happy secrets for friends but not if they are hurtful to the friend or someone else. You can talk about the risks of telling anyone her secrets. All of this is a wonderful opportunity to teach your daughter your values. But she is the only person to talk to. Not your mom or your step dad. The world doesn’t have to bend to your values – it’s your job to instill them in your kid.

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  • avatar

    BecBoo84 May 2, 2016, 1:13 pm

    Your daughter was wrong to wake John up, and he was wrong (and incredibly juvenile) to respond with name calling. However, your sensitivity to the potential grooming for sexual abuse seems totally out of line with what actually happened, and it is possible that John tried to “bribe” your daughter because, as Wendy suggested, he knew you would overreact. However, you are well within your rights as her mother to ask your parents not to request that she keeps secrets from you, even if it’s something small. I have certainly had this conversation with my parents (although with them, it was more along the lines of “Don’t let your mom know we let you have extra ice cream.”) It is important for your daughter to know, in general, that no one should ever ask her to keep a secret from her parents.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph May 2, 2016, 2:56 pm

      How could you possibly bring it up with the parents without them knowing the daughter told? I think it’s a reasonable request, sure, but I just don’t see how to bring it up without “outing” the daughter as having told.
      I think you teach your kids they can always tell you things by being cool about what they tell you rather than punishing them or getting them in trouble with step-grandfather John for having told. And this letter is the opposite of “being cool.”

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  • Monkeysmommy

    Monkeysmommy May 2, 2016, 1:59 pm

    Unleas John has abused you, sexual or otherwise, in the past and you have some issues you have haven’t resolved, you have unfairly overreacted and frankly, made some weird and concerning judgements. Yeah, a sexual predator might ask her not to tell mommy something and give her a present. On the same note, I have given my 5 year old skittles and told him not tellike Daddy. Am I a sexual predator? No, I am a mom who caved and gave her kid a treat, but didn’t want to catch shit from his other parent, who doesn’t like sugar. It may not be the best thing in the world, but you can’t make the kind of leaps you did.
    *
    Most likely, John yelled at her for waking him deliberately by singing loudly and obnoxiously (which, by the way was bratty as hell and probably merited a good talking to her over, I hope you did), and he snapped and yelled. he then felt bad, bought the toy, and saw a chance to bribe the kid to keep quiet and not have you go from zero to sixty like you are now . End of story. I wouldn’t bother making a stink with John. I would talk to youremove daughter about keeping secrets and make sure she always tells you some thing that upsets her or hurts her in any way, especially when someone tells her not to. Also, a lesson in respect and not deliberating annoying napping elders may go along way here as well.

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    • Monkeysmommy

      Monkeys mommy May 2, 2016, 8:25 pm

      ugh, sorry for for all of the typos, my phone is so touchy!

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark May 2, 2016, 2:28 pm

    Drama drama drama. And all this over calling a bratty kid a rat? Seriously? It’s obvious, LW, that you have other issues with your stepfather… And are itching for a fight.

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    • avatar

      Ange May 2, 2016, 4:59 pm

      It never sits right with me how often people are willing to throw parents or family they have babysitting their kids for free for them under the bus. Even without spoiling for a fight this level of outrage for a fairly innocuous incident pales in comparison to having family who want and are willing to take your child and give you a nice break.

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      • avatar

        Anonymous May 2, 2016, 5:26 pm

        Hi Mark and Ange, LW here. I agree with you both and I’m definitely not looking for a fight with my stepdad. And they did offer to have our daughter for a couple of days holiday and I am grateful to them. The majority of the responses have reassured me that talking to them about the incident would be an overreaction. I’m all for avoiding conflict and I can’t think of a way to share our family “no secret rule” with him (after the fact) without it being awkward or causing drama. But I need to be a good advocate for my daughter and not shy away from difficult conversations in the future but, as Wendy said, this incident is probably not a conversation that needs to be had.

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      • avatar

        Kate May 3, 2016, 11:51 am

        LW, just skimming through the comments and I don’t see this having been brought up, but this story kind of sounds like something a little kid would make up. What grown man wakes up and calls a kid a “stupid little rat?” And then says he thought he saw a rat running across the floor? That sounds like a child’s imagination more than something that actually happened. Little kids lie and make up stories – I know I did all the time. She might have gotten that toy in a sketchy way and told a story as a cover up. Something to consider. I’m not saying you should accuse your daughter of having made this up, but maybe keep the possibility in mind as you talk to her the way Wendy suggested.

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      • avatar

        Anonymous May 3, 2016, 8:15 pm

        Hi Kate. I totally agree – it does sounds bizarre. And I too thought – is she making this up?? I did have that in mind when she told me about it. And I do see that as being a possibility. It is out of character, for sure, and I don’t thiiiink getting the toy was shady? It was something that is part of a series of small toys and her step-grandad had bought her one on previous visit. So it all seemed above board and not at all surprising when she said “look what John got for me!”. Our response was ‘Yay! Lucky you! That was nice of John’ – or words to that effect. And didn’t give it another thought until she got upset a day or two later because she had made a deal and a promise that she wished she hadn’t made and wanted to tell me. She also wanted me to talk to John about it which more makes me think that she was telling the truth. I don’t know… I can totally see it as being a big drama about nothing and no more than a kid being bratty and a grandad being grumpy like most of the readers here. Truly I can, but it just all seems a little .. off? And who do I back – my daughter who is uncomfortable about something that happened and (seems?) to want us to address it. Or just let it slide. She did the right thing, she told us that an adult had asked her to keep a secret and we’ve let her know that we are glad she shared. I guess my overarching surprise and concern is just the realisation that little kids (or ours anyway!) are pretty easily manipulated and may just go for the instant gratification of getting a treat over thinking about the reason or consequences of secret keeping. Also, my stepfather was a child psychologist before retiring and so I thought he might have a few more skills than bribing her with toys not to tell mum and dad a secret! But I do take your point that it could be something she has made up or has embellished. I’m not convinced that happened but 8 year olds do have pretty elaborate imaginations for sure! Thanks for your input Kate 🙂

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph May 2, 2016, 2:51 pm

    “Substitute the name calling with sexual abuse and my blood runs cold.”
    Yeah and substitute stuffy nose with bubonic plague and half of Europe is dead. The two are not even remotely similar and your desire to conflate them shows some high drama on your part. Your jumping to this worst case scenario either indicates that you have some unrelated issue with John or some lingering childhood trauma.
    If John abused you as a child, then you should not be leaving your daughter in his care at all. If someone else (or nobody) abused you, you should not take that out on your stepfather. It would be helpful information to know how long he’s been your stepfather– do you have a father-figure relationship with him? Are you resentful of him breaking up your parent’s marriage or changing your relationship with your mother? You sure seem to have a bone to pick with him over something… perhaps something to explore in therapy?

    I’d suggest you take the opportunity to teach your daughter that she should never lie to you, by being reasonable about this (i.e. by not talking to John and outing her as having told you) and also to teach your daughter to be respectful of napping people by not singing. Honestly, talking to John will backfire on you majorly in this case if it gets back to your daughter that he knows she told!

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  • avatar

    Anonymousse May 2, 2016, 3:06 pm

    Okay, obviously this is an overreaction….unless you actually have reasons to be wary of your stepfather.
    I’d be pretty pissed/annoyed if some adult was telling my kid to keep secrets or lie to us. It is a huge overstep and kind of troubling to me, especially if it’s someone you don’t really trust. But, your daughter did the right thing. She told you, so praise her, keep this to yourself and unless you have actual reason to worry about him, drop it.

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  • mrmidtwenties

    mrmidtwenties May 2, 2016, 3:44 pm

    Ugggghhh. This letter is why I avoid interacting with children. If I were in “John’s” shoes I would have gladly told the LW that I called her kid a “stupid little rat” and that if her kid doesn’t want to be called that, then she shouldn’t act like one. Especially given the age, the kid knew what she did was wrong.

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  • avatar

    Anon May 2, 2016, 3:51 pm

    I’ll just leave this here:
    http://denver.citymomsblog.com/parenting/why-we-dont-keep-secrets-in-our-house/

    You aren’t crazy or overacting. I would talk to my parents immediately.

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  • avatar

    LW May 2, 2016, 3:54 pm

    Hi everyone! It’s the LW here. Thanks to Wendy and you all for the feedback and perspectives. I think my wording made it sounds like I thought John’s behaviour could escalate which wasn’t my intention. I definitely don’t think John would abuse my child. At all! But thought the message he was sending (adults keeping secrets from children and rewarding the secret keeping) could make her think that was okay and that if, later in her childhood, someone (not John) asked her to keep a secret, it could have a more sinister nature and higher stakes and she might not feel that she could tell the secret. Please know that I in no way think John is hurting my child.

    Absolutely she was being a brat by waking him. And I told her that she was out of line. And same to the asking for gifts. Not cool.

    That was part of her conflict – she knew she had made him angry and she was feeling upset and bad that she had made him angry. She wanted to tell us why she was upset but had promised John she wouldn’t tell. The toy deal out the time seemed like a good idea to her but a couple of days later she wished she hadn’t made that promise. It’s that conflict a child may feel that is worrying – wanting to tell mum and dad a secret but not wanting to get someone else in trouble.

    Thanks for you feedback, it’s good to hear other perspectives 🙂

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    • avatar

      Seriously? Seriously! May 4, 2016, 11:57 am

      But it’s GOOD that she was feeling conflict about it! She had promised not to tell in exchange for the gift but regretted the bargained-for exchange. I know that “secret-keeping” is weighted by the horrors it can imply, but in this case, it was a simple bargain that she later regretted, and she felt it. Talk about a chance to learn about long-term v. short-term gain. Not that in this case, she should have stuck to the bargain (she shouldn’t, she should always tell you), but that in other situations, she needs to think about what she’s giving up versus what she’s getting. If you asked me, it’s GOOD that she is grappling with these feelings, and will help her develop both emotional intelligence, reasoning skills and business acumen.

      One last thing though: I had a teacher in 3rd grade, who was by far the best teacher I ever had, who really loved her students and cared about them, spent money and time beyond the school day. When I had her, she had been teaching for at least 20 years. Around a non-denominational holiday, she invented a sort of club that the class belonged to, and that all of her previous classes had belonged to, with an acronym, and told us never to tell anyone what the acronym stood for (it was totally innocuous). When I told my mother that I couldn’t tell her what the acronym stood for, I remember her flipping out, telling me all about how no one should ever ask me to keep a secret from my parents, asking what was going on, ranting to my dad, etc. (It’s funny because now she remembers this teacher as being one of the best teachers ever, and I doubt she remembers this part, but I do).

      I get that my teacher wasn’t wise in doing that (I’m guessing it was leftover from a time when everything was a little less fraught), but I remember being so mad at my mom for assuming these bad things were happening after I told her that they weren’t, and for ruining the joy that came from being in on the secret, and making me break my word that I wouldn’t tell. (Again, it is totally innocuous, but all these years later, and I don’t want to tell.) And for being overly scared and harsh, and paranoid, and not trusting me and my 3rd grade judgment. Just saying.

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      • avatar

        LW May 4, 2016, 4:56 pm

        Hi Seriously! Thanks for your input. I agree, and the short term vs long term gain is a good perspective – thanks.

        Your 3rd grade teacher sounds awesome! I think you are right, it is a bit generational and kids these days are taught lots of language and responses aimed at keeping themselves safe that older people would find completely over the top. Kids here (we are not in the States but it’s probably the same?) are taught ‘it’s my body and no one can touch it unless I say so’ (medical professionals aside I guess?!) but when I was growing up my parents always made us kids hug and kiss all our relatives as a politeness. I haaaaated it doing it but felt I had no choice. I think kids these days are taught they DO have a choice when it comes to uncomfortable physical contact with adults and that’s a good thing 🙂

        So I totally see how secreting keeping wouldn’t necessarily raise any alarm bells for our daughter’s 65 year old step-grandfather for that reason. I guess I was hoping for a way to tell him that we have told our daughter not to keep secrets with adults but I concede there is no way to do that without causing drama.

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  • avatar

    Adrienne May 2, 2016, 4:24 pm

    Great advice Wendy!

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  • avatar

    Anonymous May 2, 2016, 7:58 pm

    Hello! It’s the LW here again 🙂 I just re-read Wendy’s excellent response to my letter and I think the second-to-last paragraph really resonates. If we did chose (and we won’t, we have decided to just let it go) to talk to my parents about ‘no secrets’ family rule after this incident and it did cause some bad feeling or drama, then Wendy is SO correct that it may have left our daughter wondering if sharing secrets she promised to keep was such a good idea. She might feel it easier to just keep it to herself and that’s not a good outcome. I wish we had taken the opportunity a few years back to just let the extended family know that we have a no secrets family rule. It’s too late now (after the fact) for us but this discussion might be helpful for other families with young children who might be thinking about what expectations they would expect from family members? And I think Wendy’s advice really nails it 🙂

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    • Portia

      Portia May 2, 2016, 9:24 pm

      It sounds like you’re being thoughtful about this, but I do think you’re missing Wendy’s point a bit. You can tell all the adults in your family that you’re a no secrets family, but what if someone you’re not related to bribes your daughter to keep a secret, even a big one? You’ll have no control over that other person (who knows who it’ll be – teacher, babysitter, lifeguard?), but you can teach your daughter to trust her gut when it comes to keeping secrets. The most important lesson, I think, is that you’d be a safe space for her down the road.

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      • avatar

        Anonymous May 2, 2016, 9:47 pm

        True, good point Portia. Thank you 🙂

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  • avatar

    erica May 3, 2016, 1:08 pm

    This is why I teach kids, no secrets just surprises. Kids get confused by secrets. It is ALWAYS a red flag when someone tells a kid to keep a secret as far as I’m concerned.

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  • avatar

    wobster109 May 4, 2016, 2:31 pm

    LW, do not mention sexual abuse to John. He will never want to have your daughter over again, and rightfully so, because he’d be worried what would happen if you accused him of sexual abuse. I know I’d never sit for someone again if they said “how do I know you’re not a sexual predator”. A accusation like that would ruin my career and friendships.

    Look at your last sentence: “substitute the name calling with sexual abuse”. I can’t believe you’re substituting name calling with sexual abuse! I mean, last week my friend’s baby ate a cheerio off the floor. If I substitute “ate a cheerio off the floor” with “sexual abuse” that would make my blood run cold too. But it shouldn’t! Some things (sexual abuse) should horrify you, and some things (ate a cheerio off the floor, name calling) just shouldn’t.

    Besides, what do you expect to happen? Take a look —
    You – “Why did you tell Emmy to keep a secret for you? I need her to tell me if anyone sexually abuses her.”
    John – “What? I would never sexually abuse Emmy! I can’t believe you’d say that about me!”
    You – “You’re teaching her to keep secrets! When I substitute name calling for sexual abuse my blood runs cold!”
    John – “Jesus, I called her a dumb name! And now you’re making such a big deal of it. Maybe this is why I kept it secret.”
    You – “You still don’t get it! Sexual abusers keep secrets too!”
    John – “You know what, screw this! I’m not talking to anyone who calls me a sexual abuser!”
    Daughter, later – “Why can’t I visit grandma and grandpa?”
    You – “Grandpa tried to make you keep a secret.”
    Daughter – “I miss grandpa. I wish I hadn’t told you.”

    Ok that wasn’t great. Maybe try it like this instead.
    You – “John, I understand you were worried about my reaction. You were probably afraid I wouldn’t let Emmy visit you anymore, and you would miss her. I also need her to feel comfortable talking to me about anything. In the future, please don’t ask her to keep secrets.”
    John – “I wouldn’t keep secrets if you didn’t react so much to every little thing! Last year when she skinned her knee you didn’t let her visit for 3 months! After that she didn’t want to play with me and said I was dangerous. I was so hurt that my own grandkid was scared of me. I bet she heard that from you.”
    You – “You’re right, I shouldn’t have called you dangerous in front of her. In the future I won’t make such a big deal over the small things. But I do need her to trust me. Can you work with me there?”
    John – “Yeah, I guess. I’m just so afraid to do anything wrong. I shouldn’t have called her that name.”

    Hmm. 2 interesting things I’m seeing here.
    1. John is afraid of your reaction! He will not be honest with you if he is afraid of you. Aim for a relationship with him where he isn’t afraid to tell you things. If you compare him to a sexual abuser or decrease his visits with your daughter, he will be afraid of you.
    2. You really do have to let go of the small things. So, fed your kid too much ice cream, called the kid a bad name once, that sort of thing. If John feels like he is walking on eggshells, he will be afraid of you.

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    • avatar

      LW May 4, 2016, 4:21 pm

      Hi wobster! Thanks for your comment. Gosh, no absolutely I agree with you! I would NEVER mention sexual abuse to John. I didn’t make it clear enough in my original letter that I in no way think that John is harming our daughter. I truly don’t. I was using the example to express my sudden realisation that kid’s can be easily manipulated and I had never really thought about it before. It was a wake up call. I was curious what Dear Wendy readers thought about addressing secret keeping with extended family members. If I did talk to John it is would be along the lines of what the kids are taught in school (as part of their keeping themselves safe programme – we aren’t in the States so I’m not sure if kids are taught the same there?). That if an adult asks me (the child) to keep a secret I should tell my mum and dad about it.

      But by me telling my mother and step-dad, after the fact, that we have taught our daughter to tell us if an adult asked her to keep a secret, it could make things awkward. And the general consensus here was to let it go which I’ll do 🙂 But thanks for your insight and I completely agree with your reasoning!

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