You won’t tell, will you?

You knew by her look. Grandma’s 13-year-old granddaughter wanted to talk about something but…

… but she wasn’t sure she should.

… but she was afraid it could have unforeseen consequences.

… but she wasn’t ready.

But she did. “Grandma, I want to tell you something. Promise me that you won’t tell anyone else?”

How am I supposed to respond to that?” Grandma thought.  Then her curiosity got the best of her. “Of course sweetheart! I promise.”

Confidentiality is one of the trickiest parts of being a youthworker-grandparent.

Young teens are often looking for someone they can trust, who is not their mom or dad, and for many reasons: friends in crisis, advice on high-risk behavior, boy and girl issues. They already know what mom and dad would say, but they aren’t convinced.

If grandma and grandpa have built a relationship of trust with their grandchildren over the years, young teens will come to them with some of those risky questions — often with a rider — the assurance that what they say will go no further.

In Kairos (the youth organization that started Grandly) we train our youth workers to build exactly those relationships of trust, and what keeping confidentiality actually means. Youth workers are not the legal or biblical authority over minors, parents are.

“You won’t tell my parents will you?”

A young teen has come to you with a high level of trust already — enough trust to even ask you not to tell. That puts you in a bind, but there is a wise way to handle these situations.

If you are asked, “Promise you won’t tell anyone!” You answer should be pastoral. “Hey, I am really glad you think you can come to me with something as important as whatever this is, but I can’t make promise not to tell anyone. I might need to for your sake! I can promise to help you find the right thing to do. I think you are saying you trust me. I won’t betray that trust. Let’s talk and see if we can find a good solution.”

Often a young teen is simply afraid, compromised, or confused. Sometimes they need courage, or reassurance, or wisdom.

Grandly: “Raising up 10,000 youth workers, all of whom are over the age of 55.”

For discussion in your Grandly group

How can you build a relationship of trust with a grandchild so you can be someone trustworthy for them in their teens?

For action

State and do one thing for one grandchild that starts or continues that trust building process.

Start a Grandly group with your spouse or some friends. Discussing our Grandly Club article is one way to become strategic grandparent.


Mike Shaughnessy is the Executive Director of Grandly and the Editor of the Kairos Youth Culture Newsletter.

Copyright © 2018 Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club.

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