I could understand why it would seem difficult to be completely honest with your kid about your past. We want our children to look up to us, respect us, love us and believe that we will always have the correct answer to any one of their many questions. We want to be "perfect" for our children, and (unfortunately) many parents think that parental perfection means never divulging mistakes or a dark past or any and all embarrassing situations in between. But the truth is, one of the best things you can do for your child is to be 100% open and honest about your past, who you were, what you did, and how your mistakes and blunders have shaped you into the person you are today.
I vividly remember the first time I realized that my mother wasn't an omnipotent, flawless human being. A very personal, very private, and somewhat painful part of her past was shared with me (by her) and her willingness to be raw and real and honest, made me realize that I could go to her with anything, at any time, and she would understand. She was better than some god-like being who never made a mistake; she was human and she was my human and I knew that this human would never judge me for any mistake I made, misstep I took, or thought that seeped into my mind. What a powerful and important new level of trust to have between a parent and child.
We, as parents, do not have to be perfect for our children. Mostly because, well, that's impossible, but also because our children won't be perfect either. There's no reason to impose an impossible set of standards on our children; unspoken or otherwise. So, with that in mind, here are 11 reasons why you should be completely honest with your kids about your past. Because the best thing you can be for your kid is unapologetically yourself.
Pro tip: Be very honest with your kid about your mistakes...in the past. Like, the distant past. Like, before they were born. Maaaaybe you don't need to let them know how you forgot to pay the electric bill last month (hey, you did eventually!) because adulting is hard. That way, you get all the benefits of being revelatory and human with your kid without their faith in your ability to steer the family ship being shaken. Let them think you're a rock-solid hero now, but used to be a hella relatable hot mess.
OK, let's do this:
Your Kids Can Learn From Your Mistakes
Being completely honest about your past — especially the mistakes you've made way back when — will give your kid an opportunity to learn from your trial and tribulations. Will they always take heed and side-step the same cracks you fell into? Probably not. There are some lessons you definitely have to learn, all on your own and in the most difficult way possible. But being open and honest about what you've done wrong at least opens your kid's eyes to the possibilities, and makes them more aware of possible consequences.
You'll Be More Relatable
Your kid will see more of themselves in you, if you're honest about your life. When children see their parents on a pedestal, they'll spend more time trying to make their mother and/or father happy, instead of just focusing on making themselves happy. Do you want to be seen as an authority figure? Of course, but you alway want to be seen as a relatable authority figure; someone safe and understanding that your kid can go to when they need someone the most.
Your Kid Will Know It's OK To Make Mistakes Too
Mistakes are going to happen to everyone, your kid included. If your kid sees that you have made mistakes, and survived and learned from them and were made a better person because of them, they will realize that to make a mistake is to be human, and even the worst of mistakes isn't the end of the world. Your kid will build self-confidence from your honesty, and that's so vital.
Your Kids Will Trust You
If you're open and honest with your kid, they'll be more likely to be open and honest with you. It would be pretty difficult to expect your child to tell you absolutely everything — and tell it truthfully — when you don't do the same.
Your Past Has Shaped You Into The Parent You Are
Your past is the reason you are who you are. Even the painful, embarrassing parts have shaped you into the person you are, and have probably contributed to your parenting habits, skills and choices. If you share your past with your kid, instead of hiding it, you're teaching them that the choices they're making now, are going to help guide them towards their future selves.
There's No Reason To Be Ashamed Of The Situations That Taught You Something
And because your past has shaped you into the parent you are today, there's absolutely no reason to be ashamed of it. Why hide all the choices — even the bad ones — that brought you to your kid? Who knows what would have happened, where you would have been, or what you would have been doing if you made a different turn back there or a different decision way back when.
Your Kid Will Understand You And Your Decisions Better
"Because I said so" isn't a great way to help your kid understand why you make the parenting choices you make. But what can help you and your child see some common ground and better understand one another is being honest about your past. If your kid knows about that one time, perhaps he or she will be more inclined to listen when you give them warnings. If your kid knows about that one situation, they might just take the time to actually listen to you. And I mean really listen to you.
You're Human, And Your Kid Will Be Able To See You As Such
You don't need to be a god-like authority figure who never, ever messes up, in order for your kid to listen to you. You don't need to make your kid fear you, in order to respect you. Let your child know that you're human because, after all, you are. There's really no getting around that. Might as well spin it in your favor. If your kid sees you as a human being who makes mistakes and learns from them and has flaws and feelings, your kid will be more open to embracing their mistakes and flaws and feelings, too.
Your Kid Will Feel More Comfortable Sharing With You
If you open up the communication highway both directions, your son or daughter will be more inclined to drive on it. When they see that you trust them enough to share something intimate or embarrassing or anything at all, they'll start to trust you enough to do the same. While you are the parent and they are the child, you're still part of a relationship that should (and is, trust me) a give and take. You learn from them just as much as they learn from you, and they will be open and honest with you as much as you are open and honest with them.
It's Always Better That Your Kid Hear The Truth From You
Your kid is going to find out anyway. I don't know how or when or why, but it seems to always happen, one way or the other. Whether it's when they're still living in your house or it's 30 years from now, your kid will learn more and more about you as you both age, so they might as well hear about your life, from the person who actually lived it.
It's Just A Healthy Act of Self-Love
While being open and honest about your past is extremely beneficial to your kid, it's also great for you. It's not healthy to carry around your past inside your chest. It's not helpful to hide who you are from the person you brought into the world. Your secrets will start to weigh on you, and that weight can cause irreversible damage. It's best for you if you be completely honest with your kids, and who doesn't want to set a healthy example for their littles?