Secrets can end a marriage, so it’s no wonder that partners in committed relationships try to avoid withholding information from each other. But what happens when your child says, "Please don’t tell dad"? Are there circumstances in which it's acceptable for a mom to keep a secret from her spouse — even in a family with a "no secrets" policy?
The kinds of secrets kids confide can range from minor misdeeds and embarrassments to wanting a tattoo or birth control, and many Circle of Moms members argue that it's the nature of the particular secret rather than a blanket policy that should determine whether or not to honor your child's plea. Here are three common situations in which moms say they would in fact keep their child's secret — even from their partners.
1. The Secret is Minor
Moms may feel obligated to share their child’s secrets with dad if the information is immoral, illegal or dangerous, "but some things are so minor they aren't even worth mentioning," says a member named Jodi.
For example, if one of her children misbehaved earlier in the day, she doesn’t feel a need to specifically tell her spouse about it because she dealt with it when it needed to be addressed, and it's over and done with. Jodi also says she keeps secrets from her husband — despite having generally open communication in her family — if the secret is about a gift the children bought for him. Of course, that means there’s a lot of secrets around her household at Christmas time.
Candi H. adds that there’s no need to disclose something as trivial as breaking a dish. What guides her decision-making is whether the secret is life-changing. If it’s not, she reasons that it’s okay to keep her child’s secret from her spouse — not because she thinks such incidents are none of his business, but because she thinks that he doesn’t care.
2. The Secret is Embarrassing to Your Child
Moms say they will also keep certain kinds of secrets from spouses when their child seems embarrassed to share that information with her father herself. These include secrets about an adolescent daughter's social drama or her physical development — topics that some dads do not deal well with, says Michele D.
For example, says, Candi H., daughters may ask moms to keep secrets about experiences like a fight with a friend, a first kiss, or finding a boy cute. And Amy K., a mom who says she otherwise prefers not to keep secrets from her spouse, will do so for menstrual mishaps: "If my daughter bleeds through her pants or something and says 'don't tell Dad,' [it's] fine." Her husband doesn’t really need — or want — to know about this realm.
Similarly, moms Fiona M. and Amber N. say it's fine to keep a younger child's secret about wetting her pants or doing something else embarrassing at school, like falling.
3. You Want to Build Your Child's Trust
Moms also tend to agree that it’s important to keep your child’s secrets so that she learns to confide in you and feel confident that you won’t betray her trust. Candi and Karen K., who both have young daughters, take any confidences very seriously because they want their daughters to continue to confide in them as they get older and the secrets become more critical.
"I know school drama will become more intense as she gets older, and I want her to still come to me. That’s why I listen to all the elementary drama now," Candi explains.
Anika is yet another mom who is comfortable keeping a secret to build trust. "I'd rather my child trusted me enough to always confide in me than to keep to herself serious issues where I could have helped," she says.
After all, as Cyndel J. shares, it's horrible when a child confides in a parent and they spill the beans: "I stopped telling [my mom] or dad anything right when I needed them most because I didn't want the whole church knowing what was going on," she says. She now believes it’s fine to keep small things secret from her husband.
When You Can't Keep a Secret
Moms generally are in agreement that secrets about sex and illegal or dangerous actions should be shared with your spouse. They also say you should be upfront with your children that secrets of this nature will not be kept. Alternatively, says a mom named Rebecca, try to get your child's buy-in on telling the other parent.
If a child thinks that dad is likely to disapprove, she might be confiding in you first to shore up support: "Sometimes kids go to one parent with something serious knowing the other parent will find out and have time to calm down before discussing it with the child," says Candi H. In cases like this, where you are the trusted parent, reassure your child that she can trust the other parent too, and that his advice is important, Karen B. adds.
"The most important thing is to be honest with your child," says Amber N. "If you tell them that you're keeping their secret, keep it. If you can't keep it, then you need to tell them that before you talk to the other parent."
When in doubt, advises Shelly B., "Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and ask the question, 'Is this something I would want him to tell me?' You need to ask yourself as a spouse, not as a mom, because you will have different answers from different perspectives."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.