Your 4 3/4-year-old: Keeping secrets

Your 4 3/4-year-old: Keeping secrets

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Your 4-year-old now

Your child may love to whisper (and holler); it's a way of exercising control over his voice. And fours love secrets – possessing information that others don't have. Since preschoolers enjoy gaining independence, secrets give them some control. They're deciding how much others need to know. (Be aware: It's a precursor to wanting more privacy.) Kids this age are also figuring out that the words they utter have power – to exclude, hurt, or make someone happy.

As your child tests out this new power, be watchful for hurt feelings. Relationships with new friends are still fresh territory for him. He's trying to be accepted and figure out where he fits in. If his secrets are exclusionary, leaving others out on purpose, the habit can backfire and leave him feeling wounded when he's the one left out.

Discuss with him that some secrets need to be shared (if someone did something inappropriate or when someone could get hurt). But be aware that it's hard for a preschooler to discern the difference between good and bad secrets. So make sure your child knows he can tell you any kind of secret and you won't be angry that he spilled the beans – even if he tells you what you're getting for your birthday.

And tell him that if another adult asks him to keep a secret, he should always tell you right away. Unfortunately, as much as we hate to think about it, child sexual abusers exist, and they often prey on children they know or are at least acquainted with. One of the first clues that something's amiss could be that an adult asked him to keep a secret.

Your life now

Many parents – and preschools – swear by hand sanitizers. But for them to work for your child, you have to make sure he's using the stuff right. A common mistake is not putting enough gel on the hands to start with; give your child a good squirt, not just a dab. Another error: not scrubbing the whole surface of the hand. Lots of germs hide under the nails.

There are some downsides to hand sanitizers. Using them often can lead to chafed, dry skin. Watch your child's hands for cracks, which are wide-open doors for infections. And sanitizers can't do battle with really grimy hands, since germs can lurk under the dirt. If hands are visibly dirty, point your child to the good old soap and water.

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