Monday, July 20, 2015

Essential or Dangerous Secrets

Quoting from The Secret Life of Families...

Dr. Imber-Black states that teens live in a very different landscape in which to make secrets than their parents or grandparents did.

Parents are often confused about how much privacy their teen can safely have and frightened about the meaning of secrets in their children’s lives..

The line between essential secrets and dangerous secrets has become exceedingly thin in an age when many teens keep such physically lethal or emotionally harmful secrets from their parents as severe alcohol and drug abuse, date rape, suicide attempts, and violent attacks by peers or strangers. 

Some parents have become afraid to ask their teens what’s going on in areas where it can be extremely dangerous to maintain silence. Distortion of the normal need for secrecy in adolescence, in a culture where the connections between teens and parents [or other authority figures] are often frayed, results in a pattern of mutual distancing and no conversation on topics that require greater openness.

Developing a thoughtful, creative position and a competent range of responses to teens and their secrets today involves a complex stew. A given family's current social and economic terrain, the values and beliefs embedded in ethnicity, social class, and specific history, and each parent's biography as a secret-keeping adolescent intertwine to inform actions.

Adolescent Secrets—Yesterday and Today

Take a moment to reflect on your own adolescence.
  • As an adolescent, were you able to keep secrets from your parents?
  • What were the secrets you kept?
  • How did your parents respond if they discovered one of your secrets?
  • Were there differences in the kinds of secrets that you kept from your mother and the ones kept from your father? What accounted for the difference?
  • What was the relationship like with your closest confidant?
  • Did you keep secrets from your siblings?
  • How would you compare the secrets you kept with the ones you imagine your teen keeps from you now?
  • How would you compare the secrets your parents kept from you with the ones you keep now from your teen?

Imber-Black, Ph.D., E. (1998). Private Investigations: Secrets Between Teens and Parents. In The Secret Life of Families (pp. 244-246). New York, NY: Bantam Books. 

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