Should I Share My Shame-Filled Secrets With My Teens?

Let’s face it, we all have regrets from the past.  Those deep places in our very soul that tend to haunt us from time to time.  They rear their ugly head at the worst possible moment.

These are the things we hold on tightly to, hoping that no one will ever find out the truth.  Grateful that they are in the past.  Praying desperately that others will not find out who we really are as well as praying that those who do know will never tell. We tend to judge ourselves for these mistakes and think that if our kids find out they will no longer respect us. 

We also struggle in our parenting when our kids reach the same age we were when those shameful moments occurred.  Typically they become the very the things we fear the most for our kids.

As fear wells up within us, that’s when we tend to try to control even more.  And as our kids see the tightening up of our grip (because we have firsthand knowledge of those dangers) they start pulling away even more in their desire for freedom.

The question that comes up most often is, “Should I tell my kids?”

And then the worrying begins.  “What if they don’t respect me anymore?  What if they go do what I did?  What if they get upset because they feel I’ve lied to them?”  And the list goes on.

A dear friend gave me permission to share her story as she wrestled with these same questions.

She kept getting nudged by God to share her story with her kids.  Wanting to be obedient, yet fearful of the potential outcome, she wrestled with turning God’s prod into action.  Talking with her husband and praying about it, they decided together that it was time to tell.

As she shared with me her regrets of abortion, she recognized how blessed she was to have the support of her husband as she shared her story with the oldest two teens.

But here’s the best part.  Rather than condemnation from her kids, rather than feeling like they had been lied to all these years, they showed her compassion.  One even said to her, “I always knew you were Mom, but now I really understand who you are and why you parent the way you do.”

One of her sons who tended to be more quiet and aloof is interacting with her in a more frequent and intimate fashion.  This friend not only feels blessed but thankful that she shared her story.

Isn’t that what we all want?  Don’t we want to move from authority figure to a person our kid truly knows when they are on the threshold of adulthood?  Don’t we want them to see that we are human rather than giving them an air of perfection?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there does need to be a level of maturity with our kids before we share those secrets.  And by all means, our kids don’t need to know all the details.  But I love how this dear friend and her husband set things up with their kids.  They shared the heartache and struggles, but they did it with a desire for deeper relationship after the exchange. 

So what did they do right?

  1. Chose obedience from God and prayed as husband and wife for direction.
  2. Mom and Dad went as a united front showing support for each other.
  3. They made the discussion intimate, yet special–a babysitter for younger kids and out of the ordinary snacks that were a special treat for those who were listening.
  4. Mom shared and told the kids up front that she wanted them to know who she really was.  She also gave the kids the right to no longer maintain the relationship with her if they so chose if they felt trust had been broken.
  5. Dad was good about making sure that the teens agreed that the younger siblings were not mature enough to hear this news and it was Mom’s story to tell when she was ready to share with them.
  6. Dad also made sure that he reinforced that this was Mom’s private family story and those outside their home should not be privy to it without Mom’s permission–in other words, this is not to be shared with your friends.

I love how this family not only recognized God’s providence that this was the time to share, but they put much thought into the moment ready to release the potential rejection from their kids.  

Being honest with our kids about shame-filled regrets teaches them that we are sinners just like them.  We’ve made mistakes that we aren’t proud of but we respect that our kids are mature enough to handle truth.  It also gives them a safe harbor when they make mistakes knowing there will not be condemnation because they know we can accept that they won’t always be perfect.

Joel 2:25, NASB

“…I will make up to you the years that the locust has eaten…” 

Psalm 3:3, ESV

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

Dare you to be real with your kids when the time is right.  Those shame-filled memories can be replaced with healing for you and bring more tender connection with your teens.

“Let go…and let God”,


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