Will You Tell Your Kids Everything About Your Past?

In a recent interview with Oprah, Drew Barrymore made the following statement in response to whether or not she will tell her daughter Olive about her past indiscretions (which include drug use, sex scandals, and a flashing incident on David Letterman):


Image Source: People Magazine
“I will absolutely instil in her that you cannot be ashamed of the journey that it took to get where you are if you are proud of yourself. But I will also try to instil in her that I did not have guidance and that is why I lived my life that way. And although I am proud of it and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life regretting it, there is no option for her to take that path because she has guidance.”
I love that she plans on being so open and honest with her daughter about her past – especially since her life’s challenges have been exposed so publically. It makes sense for her to share everything with her daughter before she sees and hears about her mother’s past through the media. I also love that she plans to explain that she has made mistakes because she lived a life without guidance and boundaries.
But her comments have led me to wonder: will I tell my kids everything about my past?
I, as I’m sure most everyone has, have made mistakes along my journey to adulthood. My indiscretions were in no way comparable to those of Drew Barrymore, but there are definitely some things that I’ve done that I would never want my children to do.
I fear that sharing intimate details with them about my past would set the example that it’s ok to try things and do things that are not acceptable, because I turned out happy, successful and healthy, and didn’t suffer the consequences that some have suffered as a result of what they have done.
But I also fear that in not telling them about my experiences, they will feel less comfortable with talking to me about the things of which they are curious, that they won’t think I’ll understand their perspective as curious and developing teens.
I haven’t yet decided if I’ll give them full exposure, but I do know that I hope to enforce the following rule: if they are open and honest with me about the things they want to try/do, I will not get mad at them for sharing their feelings with me. And if they try or do something without discussing it with me first, there will be consequences. (I’m sure that’s easier said than done)
I know that teens will try things, regardless of the boundaries and guidance that you provide for them. So I hope to instil in them an open and honest relationship – that they should feel comfortable with coming to me, and trust that I’ll listen and not punish them for the thoughts or curiosities that may arise on their journey to adulthood.
Moms to teens: what have you done? Have you given your children full disclosure on your past experiences?


  1. I haven’t given my 15 yeard old daughter full disclosure, but we have had many frank converstations with her about how we were as teens. The words “I know times are differnet” and “when I was you age” have come out of my mouth a few times and I’m only 36 years old. My daughter is a much better 15 year old than I ever was and I think that has to do with the way we raised her as “child” If she asks me about drinking, drugs or sex I answer her truthfully. Now with that being said, I have 2 more girls (9 and 7) that I can already tell when they become teens it will be different converstaions all together.

  2. I think I will try to be as honest as possible with my kids. But that will be relatively easy for me because, though I experimented and tried a few things I don’t love the thought of them trying, I was pretty tame AND I learned something. So when I tell them about the things I did, I will tell them what I learned through it, so that hopefully, they will not be tempted to make the same mistakes. But they will make their own mistakes regardless of what I tell them, and I only hope, like you, that they will feel comfortable coming to me with their problems because they will not be met with judgment or condescension. So the short answer is, yes, I will tell them about my past. I don’t want them to think that I think I am beyond reproach or that I never did anything stupid as a kid. I hope that will open the lines of communication rather than making them feel that they can do whatever they want without repercussions.

  3. I think, for us “normal” folk it’s easier not to give full disclosure and shield our kids from certain things. I’m very open with my children and tell them a lot but I don’t think, I will tell them every single thing I think I have ever done wrong or shouldn’t have done. I do believe honesty is important but I also think, that it’s a very fine line to walk sometimes.

  4. I love the way she put that. In my world, I suppose we’ll see when what’s needed when the time comes. My son may not even be interested in what I did. A friend of mine told me that you need to tell your children everything they need to know before they are 10. After that, a lot of kids just shut right down. You think you’re going to have this great close relationship but suddenly, they get verrrrrrry quiet…. Fingers crossed!


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