Sharing Personal Information With The Kids —- How Much Is Too Much?

In teaching our kids how to live, and to help them gain some perspective, we sometimes end up sharing our past experiences.  Because of this desire to be honest and not hypocritical, do we end up sharing too much information?  How much is too much, and should we feel guilty or hypocritical for telling them not to do things that we might have done ourselves?

First, let me begin with the sharing experiences aspect.  I think we can share as much as it relates to the particular situation on hand, there is no need to delve into the gory details of our past experiences or into subject matters that are not age appropriate while doing so.  Here is a common scenario….a 13 year old asking if you had sex before marriage after you told her not to.  I think you can be honest in the matter and tell the truth whatever it is.  If the answer is yes, you can then explain the negatives consequences of that action, and explain that for those reasons you just outlined, you are discouraging the same to protect her from the hurt and pain that you might have experienced.  Your painful experience or experiences this has caused in your life can be used to further drive home your point.  On the other hand, if the answer was no, you can then explain why you went this route, and what the benefits were of doing so, and why it’s beneficial for her to wait as well.

In the latter case, I don’t think you need to delve into or share the excruciating detail of any past relationships.  You only need to be sharing information as it is relevant to the exact question.  The situation is similar to a 4 year old asking where babies come from, we don’t bog them down with a detailed discussion of biology, we answer only the question asked with a general answer such as, “A baby comes from a mommy and daddy when they love each other.”   This was a simple example of course, but I am just trying to illustrate that we need to share only necessary information, making it brief and to the point.  The amount of personal information and experiences shared will of course increase as the kid grows, but in all cases, only share what is relevant.

The same is true for conversations regarding smoking or drug use.  If you are a parent who had indulged at some point in your life, and your kids want to experiment, I think you can be open with sharing information when explaining why they should not by giving your negative experiences, ensuring that at no point in the conversation you glorify the behavior.  If your kids are not moving in that direction nor are asking drug usage questions as it relates to you, I see no purpose in sharing such information about your past experiences.  In my opinion, such experiences are only worth sharing if they serve the greater good to be a teaching tool by presenting the information in a more real and relational way.  If it’s just information being presented for information’s sake, to open up unnecessarily or to even seem cool to your kids, then I think it can be left alone.  Of course, at some point you will and absolutely should be discussing drugs and sex with your kids, however, what I am talking about here are the demerits of the unnecessary sharing of some personal experiences and information when a generic answer would suffice.

Let’s address the hypocritical or guilty feelings when telling our kids not to do things that we probably did ourselves.  Personally, I don’t feel any guilt at all when telling my kids to do the rights things, regardless of my past experiences.  If I myself had made a mistake in the past, I tell them just that.  I made some terrible judgments, and then let them know that it’s my job to protect them from the pain that could possibly come to them if they make the same mistake or mistakes.  Why should we feel guilt or hypocrisy in the attempt to protect our kids from harm, or possible pain, and or hurt?

In the end, you have your own value system, and will do what is right for your kids and family.  Keep in mind that some kids may be more mature than others and can handle amounts of information differently, so you will need to make the determination on how much information to give to each kid, if you choose the path of full disclosure.  Just remember, kids are not miniature adults, so let’s be careful about how much we share and when.


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