Is It Okay For Your Teen To Keep A Secret From You?

We speak to two experts to find out.

It’s a tricky path to navigate – on one hand, you want to know everything so you can best protect them but on the other, you could come across as being overtly controlling without leaving your teen (or young adult) any privacy. Puveshini Rao (P), clinical psychologist at Rekindle Centre for Systemic Therapy and Fatin Damia (F) accredited psychologist at Relate, Centre for Couple Therapy, The International Psychology Centre weigh in.

What should they never keep secret about?

Fatin says:

1. Abuse
They may feel ashamed, embarrassed, hurt, and confused but the longer they wait, the worse it will be.

2. Life-threatening illnesses
They may want to protect you from the harsh truth, but it is your role as a parent to support them emotionally and psychologically.

3. Mental health issues
It can be intimidating for them to explain it to you, but know that this is a very serious issue and you should be a willing listener (without judgement).

4. Sexual preferences
Research findings suggest that telling the truth about one’s sexual orientation will create a stronger relationship and will be good for your child’s mental health and self-esteem. This may also prevent suicidal feelings, substance abuse, and risky sex.

5. Religious beliefs
Telling you what they don’t believe in can be very difficult and they may want to guard this secret but they need to be honest and explain why and how they feel about their current religion and they one they will be upholding (if any).

But do they need to share everything?

Fatin says that it is trickier as Asian parents want to know everything, while the children usually don’t want to divulge information they’d rather keep a secret. Things that make up their individual preferences – that have nothing to do with parents (you) – aren’t a necessity to share. For example it’s good for you to know where your young adult is working, but it’s not necessary for you to know how much they earn.

Things to remember!

Puveshini breaks it down: “Look at relationships like a dynamo: What you do affects the other and they’ll react similarly. If you speak calmly, they’ll speak calmly to you. But if you go ballistic, the other person is going to protect themselves and go ballistic on you as well. Parents often lose sight of that and think ‘I’m the parent – what I say, goes. Because I’ve raised you and done so much for you, you should be grateful, subservient, and be the model child’. They think that whatever they say (no matter how detrimental), it’s understood that it didn’t come from a place of real malice. This can lead to the child becoming so entirely unable to make decisions on their own that they have to tell their parents everything, which can frustrate them, pr they don’t tell their parents anything at all – causing them to be estranged. Most of the time, in our culture, it’s the parent who says they cannot change. Still, it’s possible to mend this relationship if only one person is willing to amend their ways.”