How Much Should Parents Disclose to Their Kids About Their Past Struggles and Mistakes?

Last week my wife and I went on a hike with another couple from White Fields Church. We hiked up Glacier Gorge in Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s the perfect time of the year for that hike, and the fall colors were out in full force. It was great.

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On the way home we were having a conversation about raising kids, and the question came up of how much parents should disclose to their kids about things that they did when they were a younger – whether it be inappropriate sexual relationships or alcohol abuse or drug use, or that time I got expelled from school, or that time I lit a trash can on fire or tried to take up smoking when I was in 8th grade…

The fear on the one hand, is that if you tell your kids that you did those things when you were their age, that they will feel justified in doing it themselves, because they will say, Dad/Mom did it, and he/she turned out okay… 

We didn’t really come to any definitive conclusion about the matter that day. Today I came across this text in a book I am reading: Cary Nieuwhof’s Lasting Impact. He was referring to some research that has been done on the topic of what contributes to kids who are raised in Christian homes abandoning or keeping the faith they were raised in:

How transparent should parents be with their kids about their own struggles? The Sticky Faith research suggests parents could foster more authentic dialogue by opening up with their children and being honest about some of their own mistakes, whether those mistakes were made in the past or even more recently. Even if it’s just apologizing for losing it in the moment, being open and saying you make mistakes can go a long way in creating a meaningful dialogue. The honesty can start when your kids are young, too. “It is never too early to start implementing some of these principles and to make your home a safe place to talk about mistakes,” Kara said. It’s also never too early to have faith conversations with your kids and talk to them about your own faith. Many parents are afraid to open up out of fear they’re not far enough along in their own faith journey to lead their kids. Kara noted, “Our research isn’t saying you need to be more spiritual than you already are; our research is saying to share with your kids the spirituality you already have.” The fact that they see the faith you have trumps any worry about them seeing any faith you don’t (yet) have.

It would seem that what matters isn’t only telling your kids about some of the mistakes you made in the past, but explaining to them why those things were mistakes, what the repercussions of them were, and why you wouldn’t want them to make those mistakes themselves.

A further aspect, which cannot be neglected, is that we must show our children the gospel. That means helping them to realize that the fulfillment of their deepest desires is found in nothing less than the redemption and new life offered to us in Christ.

I read this great quote from Paul Tripp this week:

Your job as a Christian parent is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call, and train your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
(article here)

 

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