A couple of years ago I was a guest on a radio show. The subject was parenting and honesty – how much do you need to tell your children about your past?
I was arguing that while you don’t need to lie to your kids, you shouldn’t feel compelled to tell them every gory detail from your own youth.
You’re the parent after all, you need to maintain some kind of air of authority.
The other parent on the panel had a slightly different approach. He was a recovering alcoholic and was about to reveal all to his seven-year-old daughter. I couldn’t help but feel slightly concerned on the child’s behalf.
He was undoubtedly brave to go on the radio and talk about his battle with alcohol, but what exactly was he hoping to gain from sharing his past with his daughter?
At seven, was she even equipped to understand addiction? What emotions, other than worry and fear, was he about to trigger?
I feel, as a responsible parent, that it’s OK not to share some things with your children.
Your sex life
It’s important to talk to kids about sex.
They need to understand why and when sex is a good idea, what to expect, how to say no – all of that is crucial.
But do they need to know how many sexual partners you had in your 20s, or how mummy and daddy like to have special cuddles in the toilets at school on parents’ evening?
While I agree that it’s important to teach children the value of money, and to ensure that they understand you’re not a bottomless pit of treats, revealing to your kids your family money worries, debts or other issues, which they have no control over, is only going to be distressing for them.
Kids really do worry about things you say, even if you might only be making a joke or casual remark, so watch what you share in front of them.
I get it, you’re only human, and you want your kids to know that it’s OK to make mistakes. Fine.
But you’re ultimately their parent, and you need them to see you, in a way, as infallible.
Your kids trust you to know right from wrong and to be their moral compass.
They don’t want to think about you doing bad things or getting stuff wrong, and so I think you need to do all you can to maintain this, at least while they’re young.
Jo Middleton is the creator of the award-winning parenting and lifestyle blog Slummy Single Mummy.