How tell children adult secrets

Parents sometimes find it hard to explain to teenage children why certain things happen. Sometimes things happen that simple can’t be explained because these things involve adult secrets. Adult secrets, as the name suggests, aren’t suitable for the ears of children.

However these children are indirectly affected by these adult secrets. Be it through unhappiness, be it through stress, be it through blaming themselves. Unhappiness of the parents, stress in the relationship or children thinking they are the cause for the imbalance.

So how can this be resolved without having to tell the child any adult secrets? This text isn’t, in fact, about telling the child adult secrets directly. Instead I take the indirect approach in which a third party becomes involved. This adult then makes a valued judgement.

This does require the telling of the secret but to another adult.


This is a thought experiment that might or might not be useful.

I am not a psychologist nor therapist. Do not do anything based on the ideas given here. I take no responsibility for success or failure or injury, etc.

Don’t try this at home, or anywhere else for that matter. Consider this to be a thought experiment — it’s all happening in my head!

Step 1 Allow the child to pick an adult they trust

The child should pick/select an adult that they trust. Ideally this is an adult also trusted by the parents. Important is that the child trusts the adult, the trust to the child is more important than the trust to the parents.

Of course, the chosen adult must be asked first if they which to engage in this role. This should be done directly with the chosen adult, on a one-to-one basis and not in the presence of the child.

Step 2 Tell that adult the secret and the context

Once the adult has been chosen, talk to them about what happen and explain to them the adult secret. If this isn’t possible because it is suddenly to painful, then best to exit the exercise immediately.

Allow the chosen adult to evaluate the situation. Perhaps something else can be done. Perhaps there is another solution and there is no need to explain anything to the child.

Step 3 Get that adult to talk to the child

Once the chosen adult has been briefed, its time to talk to the child. Of course the child should not be told the secret. Also whether the parents are present or not is an open question.

The chosen adult should of course emphasis that the parents did the right thing. Reassuring the child that it is not responsible and even though it might be difficult and hurtful, the parents did the right thing. Since the child respects and trusts this third party, this advice might well alleviate their pain.

Step 4 Chosen adult and parents have a debriefing

After the child(ren) have been told, the parents and the chosen adult should sit down together and discuss what happened and how it went. This might be well very emotional and care should be taken.


Indirectly then we have told the child the secret or at least that it knows that things, they way they happened, are ok.

The intention here is to have a neutral party confirm the parents in their actions. Because the child trusts the neutral party, they also believe them. This makes the neutral party a confirmation party and also someone the child can confide in.

It should also be considered that perhaps one can wait until the child is old enough to explain the situation. It all depends the impact of the current situation and the cost of explaining now or waiting.

Of course, this can be particularly difficult if dealing with a poisoned secret. Since the delicacy of the secret might well mean that it’s not something that even other adults should be told.