How much do we tell our kids?


Let’s say you did something immoral as a young adult and you have already confessed the sin to a priest, you feel forgiven, but feel a need to tell your kids about what you did in hopes they won’t repeat your mistake. How much do you tell your kids about your past? And if you did tell your kids, how did it go and do you regret telling them about it? I’m not talking about little children, I’m talking about teens and young adults.


IMO Nothing.


I will tell nothing. What happened in my past is not my children’s business.

Besides, I’m not certain that telling my children that I’ve commited a certain sin will prevent them from doing the same. My father told me when I was a teenager that he had smoked pot. He told me it wasn’t fun and he later regretted it so I shouldn’t do it. What I got from that conversation was that smoking pot must not be so stupid because my father is a wise man & he did it… so it’s not that big of a deal. Ditto w/ having sex when my mother told me she did that.

There are things that are just wrong - regardless of whether I did it or everyone does it… wrong is wrong because God says so… I think I’ll focus on that instead.


Thank you for the input. I have a friend who was seeking my advice on this, and you have expressed how I felt. I just wanted to hear from others in case I was off base. Have a good weekend! It’s Friday!!


My dad told me all kinds of stuff that he’s done in the past like sex, drinking, drugs, lies, etc in the hopes that I wouldn’t repeat his mistakes, and I didn’t look down on him for it. It didn’t influence my decisions one way or another, but I was proud of him for changing his life.

The night after my mom’s funeral dad told me all kinds of explicit stuff mom had done like sex, drugs, stealing, abortion, lies, cheating, etc. He told me those things because he was reliving his experiences with her and how they met and what their life together was like. Maybe he wanted me to know the type of person she was when she was younger, maybe I was just an outlet for his sadness, I don’t know, but I regreat him telling me every single thing he told me that night because it wasn’t his life story to tell. Sure he was involved, i.e. taking care of her as she was coming down from the highs, putting up with her stealing his money, cheating on him, etc, but he wasn’t the one committing those sins. He had no right to tell me those things… I was 18 (a few days from being 19 and I’m 20 now with a couple months until I’m 21 just to give you a time frame) and that was not the kind of memories I wanted to be having of my mom the night after her funeral. I definately look down on him for telling me those things but I don’t blame him… just a little bitter at him for not waiting to tell me those things until the pain wasn’t so raw.

In my opinion it depends on the maturity level of the kid and if you think they might be involved in what you were involved in. If you think that may be the case, sure, tell them your life experiences so they know you’ve really been there and done that and you can speak as an authority about the subject because of experiences not just because you’re a parent. Sorry for the long post.



If anything it gives kids an excuse. “How can you tell me not when you did?” Trust me, trying to teach them from your mistakes does not work.


Little to none until maybe they are adults. My 13 year old if we did drugs I immediately said no and my husband called me a liar. Well, he was right, I just didnt want to admit it to her. I said yes. He told her one story of what drugs he did and why he stpped and that was the end of it. I accidentally slipped something in a conversation with her and the look on her face was MOM:eek: Then I had to back it up with it was a horrible decision which I regret and hope that you dont make the same mistake I did, I went further and told her how displeasing to God it was and she should not want to displease and disobey God like I did. Phew, she was good with that. So far, no more questions from her. Of course now my 8 year old son is starting with where do babies come from:eek:


When I had the “pot” speech with my kids, I told them “yes, one time and one time only”. They never let me forget that.


To discuss your personal past is to move the “wrongness” of something into the subjective world of relativism. The discussion should be based on the Church’s teaching of why something is intrinsically disordered and therefore wrong to do under any circumstances.

To go the route of “I did it but I regret it and you shouldn’t do it” is to base the wrongness on the feeling of “regret” or “guilt” which is totally subjective. There are women out there who will tell you they do not regret their abortion, which may be true but makes abortion no less wrong.

So subjective remorse is not the best way to frame a discussion about the moral absolutes of the Church.

Knowing your parents transgressed the moral law does no good for a child. Children look up to their parents and should never be given a mixed message or any sort of “well, maybe it’s not so terrible if my parents did it and they turned out OK” type of influence.


Nada, zip, bupkis…Hire a counselor, see your priest, tell your spiritual director, but do not burden your kids with this.


That sounds very similar to the “one time but I didn’t inhale”…:wink:


When your child wants to do something potentially harmful to himself, and you say “No”, how will you respond when he says, “But my friend John/Jane is doing it!!”

You will likely say in response, as parents have since time began, “So what? If all your friends were doing it, does that make it right??”

I think it is more important to teach your child the proper process of weighing choices and deciding what is right and what is wrong *despite *what he thinks others have done, his own parents included.


One thing I made sure to do was wait until I was 18 until I did anything I wouldn’t want any future kids I might have to do. I did not try pot or get drunk until I was 18. There are in fact very very few stupid things I did as a teenager. I waited until I was 18 out of respect for my dad as well as to make sure no future kid of mine, should I have any, ever can use that excuse on me.


Don’t volunteer anything, but never lie to your kids. All too often when visiting w/ your cousins, old friends, family, things can come up that your little people may hear. If they know that you’ve lied about it, you’re telling them that deception is OK.

If you’ve never lied about it, just never volunteered anything, you can then have that frank talk about the damage it did to your growing up and how you don’t want them to make the same mistakes.


I had never thought of that approach, but it makes sense. I agree that one shouldn’t tell one’s children about one’s past sins.


Hi, :slight_smile:

I am 21, and to my knowledge my parents have never done any major sins in the past (no drugs, no premarital sex, etc). I really do believe this to be true. And I think that growing up it was good to have this as an example, I think that if they have done things bad it the past, the knowledge of it (no matter how regretful they are) would have made it seem not as bad to me. And would have possible been an “excuse” for me to lapse into these sins.

Also, I think at no time should you reveal past sins to your children especially when they are older (18, 21, 35, 50 … ever!) Because you will turn their world upside down!! I have a friend who this happened to when he was in college, the knowledge of his parent’s sin caused him so much sadness and he went into deep depression.:frowning:

Also, I have heard of medical studies, about when the child knows that a parent has smoked, the child is much much more likely to do this. I think this goes along with any bad behavior. If you don’t want your children to make the same mistakes, I think you should never tell them what you have done (in the past). And focus on teaching them good morals, and being a wonderful strong example to them everyday.

I am not a parent, so I have no idea what it is like from that side, but from the child’s side this is my very strong opinion.


Hey Catherine,
Great post. You are MUCH closer to kid age than most of us, so you’re opinion is most helpful - plus I agree with everything you said. :thumbsup:

God Bless,


Along the same lines, if my dd’s father and I marry in a few years, what do we tell her? She will OBVIOUSLY know that she was born out of wedlock. Any parents (or children) out there who have dealt with this sin in their past (pre-marital sex that resulted in a child)?

I also agree with not talking about the “regret” part, b/c it can do A LOT more damage than good. I am adopted and was taught that my biological mom and dad should have confessed the sin and regretted their sin. Well, that caused me to be very upset with the Church to think that I should have been regretted, even though I was a life that could have been aborted. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I understood that I SHOULD have been taught by my Catholic teachers that my biological parents should have confessed and REPENTED their sin. I have known many adoptees and children of never been married parents who have been taught as I have and as a result have had serious issues with the Church. Some have even left the Church because of this break in their foundation (and feeling as if the Church viewed them as a mistake).



I was talking about sins in the past that your child would not know about without you telling them.
I think, you must explain sins that the child will experience. Parents make mistakes in many ways throughout their children’s life and the child will witness these. These sins are important to talk about, learn from, and explain the importance of confessing sins and being truly sorry for them and for striving to never repeat them because they separate you from God and are hurtful to God. Also, you can show your daughter how God can even create good from sin. How once one sins, God still loves you and helps you and can bring wonderful joy like your daughter. Sin can be forgiven if we are truly sorry and God still loves us. It is also important for children to learn lessons like these as well.


I don’t think it’s a good idea to volunteer information about your past transgressions to your children


in the case where it is almost certain that they are going to learn about it. In such a case it is probably wise to control the way your children discover the truth.

For instance, if your child was conceived out of wedlock, even if you married later, that child is eventually going to do the math. If you lived with someone long term and that person was/is well known to extended family members then one of those family members is likely to spill the beans.

It might be a good idea to tell your child that you made the mistake before the child throws it at you.

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