How Much About Our Past Do We Disclose to Our Adolescent Children?

By: Raysurnette Phillips


I was watching the Wendy Williams show today (slow news day, don’t judge me) and her guest was Dr. Drew. For those of you who don’t know Dr. Drew is a highly respected addiction medicine specialist and host of multiple talk shows, notably HLN’s Dr. Drew on Call. He and Wendy covered a few topics, but one thing caught my attention specifically.

Dr. Drew said that he doesn’t believe that parents should share their mistakes with their adolescent children. The fear is that it will give them license to continue in our undesirable footsteps. To his credit, all three of his children are in college and on the path to success.

My Perfect Mother?

Now, I grew up in a home with the same ideals. My mother led me to believe that she was a virgin until marriage and never on a sin did she stumble.

I thought my mother was perfect and could never do wrong.

Our conversations about life never got to deep, and her advice was always biblical, never a personal story or antidote. However, almost every situation had a quote from “the old folks”, some quote that my grandmother would live by and was serviceable in multiple times of trouble.

Like when I would want to date too early she offered “from little acorns big trees grow”. Or when I reached the age of womanhood her speech was “keep your pants up and your skirt down”.

Or when I kept messing up in school “once is a mistake, twice maybe, but three is just a good time”. That was it. No relation, no reason, just what I should or shouldn’t do. No explanation why.

Why My Husband and I Do Things Different

My mom calls our style, new age parenting, whatever that means, but my husband and I are very open with our kids. Maybe to open, I will admit, sometimes. We have six girls (most in the teenage and double digit years) and two boys, who thank God are still young (although I hear they are a whole lot easier).

During our family dinners or events they like to ask questions or tell us stories about what they are dealing with, which leads to dad telling a story. We’ve all heard these stories before so there is a chorus of “oh boy dad” and the rolling of the eyes. He forges on none-the-less.

We tell them our struggles (mines usually happen during girl time) in hopes that they will not make these same mistakes. That they will choose to learn from our lessons and forgo the heartache.

Every subject is covered from academic to social, even prayer and faith.

We are honest with them about ourselves, even when it hurts. Expectantly our children seeing us as people with flaws just like them will make us more relatable and foster an open and honest dialogue between us. They will know that at one time or another one of their parents dealt with this situation and could have the answer they are looking for.

I’m Their Parent, Not Their Friend

Now, there are still boundaries of respect. An open relationship does not take away from our positions as parents and our God given authority in their lives. As much as we talk we are not friends, there will be plenty of time for that when we they are brilliant, successful adults, defining their own path in life.

No one can say what is right for one family or wrong for the other. Sometimes, when a child is raised one way it causes them to raise their own children the total opposite. Not out of disrespect for their parents, but in my case, to give my children some of the things I wish I had as a child.

As long as the goal of happy, healthy, and contributing citizens with a fear and relationship with God is met we’ve done our work. We picked the right answer and can only pray that our kids will do the same.

What do you think? How much do you share about your past experiences (the good and bad)  with your children?

Raysurnette is a wife, mother and lover of all things creative. A former military brat she loves traveling, museums, and absorbing other cultures. Follow her on twitter @iammonologswife.



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  • Latonya
    October 24, 2015 at 6:59 am

    I am pretty open with my girls. They are 10 & 8. It’s important to foster relationships outside of discipline. By having a well-rounded relationship, my girls have a better understanding of who I am. In my opinion, this is important especially when we are teaching them to cultivate a real relationship with God. It’s hard to have a real relationship when there is a skewed viewpoint.
    I can also say openness really helps if you gave a child who naturally leans towards perfectionism. It helps to teach self-forgiveness.