Sandra Sekamwa: Ssshh it’s a secret!!!

My sister bought my daughter a journal as a Christmas gift. How nice of her I thought, until my nine-year-old daughter started asking what a crush is? And I wondered where did you get that from? She said the journal is asking… Oh well, I had no idea these journals had Q&As.

From what we had our days, you would just put down what was on your mind. Well, if you are the parent of a child aged nine and above, you are already aware of the shift in perspective that happens in the pre-teen years.

Suddenly, peers and friendships take on more importance than before.  While your child still values your opinion, you certainly are no longer the center of your child’s social world. Her friends are. And with this shift comes a need to keep from you some of what’s going on.

You won’t be told everything. Your child will keep from you things that he or she thinks should be secret. And this, obviously, can be a problem, because they are not yet the best judges of what they can handle and what you need to know.

So I explained what a crush is and I made a promise never to check in my daughter’s diary.
Do I really want to know what’s in there? Of course I do, but I also want to keep a good trusting relationship with my girl. I want to be the person she runs to when she notices her first period, when she gets her first crush or even when she gets her first heart break. This is why I will patiently stay as far away from that book as possible.

Keeping secrets becomes something of an obsession in the pre-teen years. This is the age of the locked diary, after all. Mystery, intrigue, hidden information of all sorts attract older school students.

Being able to keep a secret is a mark of self-control and competence and kids this age know it. So children in the pre-teen years are likely to keep secrets. In addition, your child’s friends may make her pledge to keep a secret. Your child may be burdened not only with secrets of her own but with the secrets of others and the weight of a promise not to tell.

I have made it an anthem in my home that children should never keep secrets from their parents and it’s one thing I surely believe my children have tried to abide by. But this doesn’t mean they tell me everything, and that is okay with me.

As long as on several occasions they have made me their secret keeper, I can be thankful for that. I can’t count how many times my darling mother sneaked into my journals. Me being a writer, a description of a kiss would cover eight pages or more so let’s just say she was enjoying my writing skills.

All said, however, I am also aware that keeping a journal has its advantages. One is that it can be a source of reference for investigations. If you suspect your child is keeping a secret and you think you and her can talk about it, say so.

There’s no need to ask the child if she’s keeping something secret – there’s no point in forcing her to lie to you. Instead, say what you suspect and start the conversation from there. Just make sure to make it friendly. And, yes, buy your pre-teen a journal as they start the new school term…