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Why Some Kids are Drawn to Adult-Level Info and How to Keep it Kid-Friendly

Many kids are drawn to adult-level information. They eavesdrop on their parent’s conversations, pay attention to what’s happening on the news and take every opportunity to read their parent’s text messages and emails. As hard as parents try, kids are still finding out information they have no business knowing.

Take nine-year-old Sasha, for example. Sasha has noticed her parents fighting and is worried about them getting a divorce. Sasha’s mother has done her best to protect Sasha from her marital problems and has assured her that she and Sasha’s father are doing just fine. When Sasha intercepts a text message from her father while playing Angry Birds on her mother’s iPhone, Sasha is devastated. “You told me you weren’t getting a divorce! You lied to me!”

Sasha’s mother is not alone. Kids of all ages are overhearing conversations they have no business hearing and asking questions they have no business asking, and parents aren’t sure how to handle it. “What do I say now?” a parent in my office asked after her child read an email from her teacher about holding her back the following year. “Should I tell her we’re considering it? Avoid it? Act like I didn’t know she read it?”

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to these questions, but what I can tell you is that by protecting your child on the front end, you can save yourself a lot of trouble on the back end.

Here are three simple steps to help you protect your child.

How to protect your child from adult-level information:

1. Lock your computer, phone and email accounts. Put a parent block on your internet and cable television service. If kids can’t find it, they won’t have access to it.

2. Avoid discussing adult-level topics in front of your child. This includes relationships with your spouse, your friends’ relationships with their spouses, financial issues, job stressors, world events, etc.

3. Set boundaries. You do not have to answer every question your child asks. If your child asks an adult-level question, say, “That is an adult problem so you don’t have to worry about it. I will take care of it.”

If your child has already been exposed to adult-level information, you will need to follow an additional set of steps. You may have had great boundaries in place but your child found a way around them or you may have regrets about not setting good enough boundaries in the first place. Regardless, if your child has accessed adult-level information and you’re not sure how to handle it, here are some helpful steps to take.

How to handle adult-level information with your child:

1. Don’t assume your child knows and/or understands what has been shared. Kids are not little adults. They don’t process things the same way so if they overhear a conversation, see something on television or read something they shouldn’t have, it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand it.

2. Focus on feelings rather than questions. A good example of this would be if your child asks, “Is daddy going to lose his job?” Instead of answering, “Yes, he is but don’t worry about it” or, “No, daddy’s job is just fine” say, “Why do you ask?” or, “What are you worried about?” This helps you understand why your child is asking the question in the first place. It also helps you avoid telling your child something that may be worrisome.

3. Think before responding. Kids will catch you off guard and ask questions that you could have never predicted. Often, parents have no idea their child has knowledge of adult-level information until they have started asking about it. If you feel caught off guard by your child’s question, say, “Let me think about that” or, “I will talk to you about that later.” Once you give a response, it’s hard to take back so make sure you are answering the question the way you want to.

What you must remember:

There are no guaranteed ways to keep your child protected from adult-level information, but by following the steps above, you will certainly improve your chances. Even if you do a great job of protecting your kids at home, they will still go to school and hear other kids talk, and will undoubtedly be exposed to adult-level information to some degree. A great way to counteract the amount of adult-level information your child takes in is by keeping things kid-friendly. Expose your child to lots of fun, creative play that will help balance out the stressors of the world. Play kid music, watch kid movies and talk about kid things every chance you get. They will have plenty of time to focus on adult-level issues so help them savor the beauty of childhood, while they still can.

Allison Edwards is a Licensed Professional Counselor and registered Play Therapist. She is the author of the new book, Why Smart Kids Worry: And What Parents Can Do to Help, and is the creator of the Anxiety Tracker iPhone app that provides a way for people to keep track of their anxiety daily. To purchase Allison's book, visit



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