Why kids won’t tell their stories



Recently I posted an article about why kids need to tell their stories. It is very important for kids to talk and tell stories about the breakup of their family. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why they won’t attempt to talk and share what is happening to them.

Did you notice I said, “Won’t attempt to talk?” Some kids become mute when they are with certain people.

Reasons kids won’t talk

  • They don’t want to hurt one or either of their parents
    • They are afraid they will betray the other parent
    • They are afraid they will say something that will upset the parent they are with at the moment
    • They are trying to live in two separate homes with two of the most important people in their lives
    • Children are always on guard not to let something slip out so they find it better to just keep quiet
    • They have been told by one parent not to tell the other parent certain things
  • Children need to feel safe in order to let down and talk
    • Children need to know the person they are telling their stories to won’t run and tell someone else
    • Children need confidentiality explained to them and then practiced with them
  • It is a learned skill. In other words they have learned it is best for their peace of mind to keep quiet

People they may shy away from talking when they are around them

  • Single mom
  • Single dad
  • Dad or mom’s significant other
  • Stepparents
  • Step-siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Parent’s friends
  • Sometimes other kids – they don’t want to become a target for bullying
  • Schoolteachers if they think things will be repeated about them at school conferences
  • Church leaders –  because they feel uncomfortable lying to one or both parents when parents want information about the other parent. They know lying is a sin, but they feel caught in a trap on this issue.

How church leaders can help

  • Provide a safe place where a child can be comfortable. We do this in DC4K
    • We tell the children we are the safekeepers and we are there to keep them safe. We will help them feel safe with all the many feelings they are experiencing. We will keep them safe from getting hurt too.
    • I also explain what confidentiality means. I tell them we will not be telling their parents the things they said. They are free to tell their parent the things they say but not what someone else says.

When giving my group this spiel one 9 year-old said, “Well, I won’t be telling my parent anything I say! That’s why I’m here – to talk about my problems not his.”

  • Never tell a child you will keep their “secrets.” This is verbiage sexual predators and child abusers use.
  • Assure children what they say will be kept in confidence.
  • While you can encourage a child to talk to their parent, be aware that for many kids of divorce it will fall on deaf ears for the reasons listed above.
  • If a child tells you something you think the parent that brings them to church should know, ask the child if you can set up a meeting with the parent and the child and that you will be there to mediate the conversation.
  • While you do want to keep confidences there are certain times it is important to keep the child safe and free from harm. You may need to share what has been told to you. If a child tells you something that alerts you to possible child abuse, you must report it. The authorities are legally bound not to disclose who reported the incident. (Know your church’s position on this issue and follow your church’s protocol.)
  • If you are not sure whether the child is in danger to himself or from another person, document everything that is said to you. Keep your documentation in a secure location.
  • Help the single parent realize that many times kids won’t talk because they are protecting the parent. Encourage the parent to find safe people such as a school counselor, church leader or someone such as a grandparent type person in your church or a professional counselor talk to their child.
  • Pray for and with the child.

Children need to tell their stories. If possible as a child becomes comfortable with talking ask them to share with others how God is working in their lives. It might be something short but still it is an opportunity to learn how to talk and tell their story.

One of my DC4K kids stood in front of the entire group and said, “You know how you been telling us to pray about things? Well I prayed my dad wouldn’t have to work so many long hours and that his days off could get switched around so he could spend more time with me. Guess what? God did it. He made it possible for my dad’s days to get switched.” Now that’s story worth telling!



This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on April 14, 2015.

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