Did you ever ask your mom or dad if they had sex before marriage or if they tried any drugs in their younger years, and they responded with sheepish claims that they never did any of that, and furthermore, didn't even think of it? Yeah, I'm with you. My parents were like that. But because I never believed my mom about being a virtual angel until her 20s, and I really hated the fact that she tried to make it seem like she was, I decided to be totally honest with my kid about my past. Granted, my child is still a toddler and thankfully not plying me with questions about my virginity and experiences with marijuana, but when the time does come, I am definitely in the camp of total open honesty. Even if it embarrasses him, 'cuz well, isn't that what parents are for sometimes?
That said, I don't know if it's the best idea to be totally and completely candid with your kids. I mean, I will definitely not be telling my son someday about the kinds of things I did with boys before my freshman year of high school was even over, but I also won't shy away from any of his questions about my past, if only to help him relate his own issues and feel not so awkward and alone. Even though the awkwardness of adolescence isn't exactly totally avoidable, I think that there is a not-insignificant amount of comfort to be taken from knowing that your parents — the closest adults to you as you're going through the awkwardness of growing up — went through some sh*t too, and still managed to turn into the solid, stable(-ish) adults they are. There's power in that.
Not only does being honest with your kid make for a better relationship with them overall, but it also feels kind of great to be honest and open with them. It's really not too difficult to see the ways that being honest with your kid about your past is good for you both. Being real with your kid isn't just for their benefit — it's definitely a win-win situation. Here's how:
1. It Will Make Them Unafraid To Make Mistakes
If your kids can see that you may have made similar mistakes, they'll be less likely to totally beat themselves up over minor things that before maybe seemed life-altering.
2. It Helps Them Know That You're Not Superhuman
While I want my son to think of me as a superhero for as long as possible, I also know that at some point, he's going to have to realize that I'm just like him and I make mistakes too. Sometimes even more so. And that it's totally fine.
3. You Won't Feel Like A Hypocrite
It's plenty easy to tell your kid to keep away from the alcohol at a party or to abstain from any sort of sexual activity, but when you've done it yourself, you can't help feeling like hypocrite. Being honest about your past — while stressing the sort of mistakes those actions caused, and sharing what you learned and/or might've done differently then if you had the perspective you have now — can actually have some merit.
4. You'll Be Helping Them Avoid Making Your Mistakes
And isn't that the whole point of being honest with your kids before they go out and make history repeat itself?
5. They Might Be More Likely To Trust You
Being honest and open with your kid is the opposite of hiding your past from them, and they'll kind of realize the difference when you are talking to them rather than lecturing them.
6. Lying Just Leaves A Bad Taste In Your Mouth
Lying in general isn't exactly the coolest thing to do, but when it's right to the face of that sweet kid who was once hanging on your leg for the better part of the day, it just feels wrong.
7. It's Probably Better To Be The One To Tell Them About Sex — Which Means Admitting You've Had Some
Rather they learn from you than via ill-informed, shaming scare tactics from sex ed at school, or worse still, from their friends, who likely don't know much more than they do anyway.
8. Learning About Your Past Makes Them Feel A Little Less Alone
If your kid struggles with depression or anxiety or even just plaguing insecurities, they could do well to learn about your own experiences with them, how you dealt with them, and the fact that your kids have someone like you to look to now instead of keeping that sort of knowledge to themselves.
9. It Helps You Feel Better About Your Own Past Mistakes
Sometimes, just talking about your past and the mistakes you've gone through is enough to legit make you feel better.
10. You're Teaching Them That The Truth Is More Important
And as a result, getting more of the truth in return as opposed to having your kids feel too afraid to be totally honest with you.
11. It Helps You Realize That Your Mistakes Made You Who You Are Today
Which you probably already knew on some level. But being honest with your kid about your past helps you to realize that while you may have done some unsavory things in the past, you obviously did something right in the meantime to get to where you are today.
12. You're Avoiding The Possibility Of Your Past Popping Up Unexpectedly
I don't mean like a guy you and your friends hit with your car on a rainy prom night and swore to each other to never tell anyone about coming back into your life. But more so, your kid finding out about keg parties you went to in college before you were ~technically~ 21, or premarital relationships that you previously pretending never existed. Not that you're obligated to tell your kids anything, any more than you're obligated to tell anyone anything about you or your past. But you surprisingly might find that you want to be open about this stuff, even if it seems like mistakes and less-than-angelic moments in your past are exactly the kind of things you want to keep hidden from your kids.