How much should you tell your child about your past?
Finding practical ways of sharing your past, for better parenting.
When parents rarely discuss their past with their children a part of history is lost. Parents may struggle to choose which past experiences to share with their children. A parent may wonder whether or not to tell a child about past drug use, drinking and driving or experimentation with sex.


There are times when a parent may decide that her past experience may benefit the child. Maybe she wants her child to avoid the same mistakes that she made. Sharing with the child childhood experiences will also give the child a sense that Mummy and Daddy understand what he is going through. This may make it easier to discipline the child. Sharing you childhood experiences can also help with bonding with your child.

Some parents have also found it helpful to share with their children how they handled a certain situation. The advantage of this method is that the child will know that she is receiving tried and tested advice.

A parent’s past experience can be shared as antidotes to encourage good behaviour and to develop a child’s problem solving skills.

Treading carefully around negative incidents

At times sharing past negative experiences can backfire if a parent is not tactful in how he does it.  When a parent glorifies one’s mischievous childhood behaviour this may send a wrong message to the child.  Some children tend to justify their own bad behaviour by saying, "But you also did that when you were my age."

There is also the risk of the secrets you shared with your child being used against you or being revealed to people to people who are not entitled to it. 

A parent will obviously need to prepare beforehand for any questions that a child will ask.

The aim is to be honest without revealing information that may be detrimental to your parenting. A parent will be alert to give age appropriate information so that the information will be effective.

Don’t do as I did…

Sometimes a parent a parent can share the principles learned from an experience without necessarily going into the embarrassing details.   For example instead of a parent sharing his past sexual indiscretions with his teen he can focus on the lessons got from that experience.

Sharing your past experiences with your children, when done correctly, can save them time they could have needed to go through the same experiences.  They benefit from your experience and wisdom to make better choices in their life.

Read more by Sipho Yanano

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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Do you think it’s best to be as open as possible with your child about your past experiences?

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