“You won’t tell my parents right?”

We hear variations on this phrase often but how should a youth worker respond? Do we make the promise?

There are two extremes that can influence confidentiality but fortunately they are quite rare: 1) the student is in some type of real danger and confidentiality should be breached, 2) one of the parents would respond in such a way so that the student could be harmed. Each of these would dictate differing responses.

Thankfully, most of these interactions are less extreme. In these instances our best course of action is to patiently listen and eventually challenge the student to be the one to break the news to the parent(s). I’m often surprised by how many students rise to this challenge and talk to mom or dad.

For those of us as parents, the rule of thumb is, how would I want to be treated? We’d want to know right? And for 90% of our situations, this is the goal when kids open up with, “you won’t tell my parents right?”