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What Should You Tell Your Teen About Your Past?

 What Should You Tell Your Teen About Your Past?

Are those stories and lessons from your past that you should tell your teens to help them through adolescence... or is it better to keep your misdeeds and mistakes to yourself?

Here on Circle of Moms, many moms have recounted the scariest things they did when they were teenagers, proving that by the time we're parents, most of us have at least a few regrets over the ways we behaved when we were younger. As I read through that discussion, I found myself remembering some of the stunts I pulled during my own teenage years, when I was convinced I was invincible. But reliving those memories doesn't make me yearn to share them with my own kids. I doubt these that these tales from my past will help them — or our relationships.

As it turns out, while many moms share my reticence, many also feel that there are circumstances in which sharing your past with your teen is not only appropriate, but also important. Here, Circle of Moms members weigh in on when to speak up and when to keep quiet about your past.


What to Reveal, and When

Though it may seem like a simple "do I?" or "don’t I?" question, it’s not always just about what you choose to tell your teen about your own teenage years. Often it’s more about why you choose to tell them, what you want to impart, or how your choice to speak up or stay silent may color your teen's perspective on you.

As mom Renee W. points out, while there are some things about her past she'd really rather wait to share until her kids are adults, she would go ahead and divulge them sooner if she thought doing so could prevent her kids from making the same mistakes she did. Your secret may eventually come out, she reminds, so it's better to be proactive than to risk damaging the trust you've built with your kids by keeping quiet.


Renee's not alone in feeling reluctant to volunteer information without having a good reason. Kristi C., for example, plans to keep quiet about the age at which she started having sex because she doesn’t want to hear, "Well, you didn’t wait." But  if she were asked point blank, she plans on telling her daughter the truth.

Member Elizabeth K. summarizes this 'choosing your moment' attitude well when she says, "There's nothing I wouldn't share with my kids, but some of the things I did were pretty bad. To reveal them... it would have to be age appropriate and appropriate to the situation. I don't just arbitrarily throw my mistakes out there for their viewing."

Other moms point out that what you share, and when, can also depend on how you feel about your own past. Jackie-Rae, for instance, is more than willing to share her regrets about things like not finishing school or applying herself because this could keep her daughter from repeating her mistakes, but she doesn’t think there’s any benefit to telling her daughter some of the other "stupid" things she did when she was younger. Like many moms, she's not willing to share details about "sexual experience or numbers," as mom Suzette G. puts it, or anything she feels won't actually be beneficial for her teen to know.

When Mum's Not the Word

I can see Jacki-Rae’s point. If you see your teen going down a slippery slope with drugs, telling her that you, too, struggled with addiction can help open the lines of communication and educate your teen about the risks. But it’s quite another to simply regale him with tales of your dumbest stunts.

The best advice on this question seems to come from member Jeanne V., who suggests parents share what they're comfortable sharing and stress the consequences of what they did. After all, she says, "Remember we are all human, we've all made our mistakes. Whatever I did in the past (good or bad) has made me who I am today."

Image Source: iStockPhoto

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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