Dear Dr. Meg
My 20-year-old daughter wants to know what mistakes I made when I was in my twenties. I made plenty of mistakes that I do not want to share the details of, but I want to be honest so that she will trust me and know that no matter what happens in her life I will love and accept her. How much should I share with her and how much should I keep to myself?
Lost At What To Say
This is a great question and one which I am frequently asked. I answer it differently than most, so hold on. I think that you should only share what you want to share. Your personal life is your business, not your daughter’s. Many parents feel that they must divulge their deepest secrets and reveal past mistakes to help prevent their children from repeating those mistakes. This sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t work. How many teen girls who have mothers who gave birth during their own teen years, grow up to repeat the cycle? Most of them do. This is because our children mimic what we do, they don’t do what we say.
Telling your daughter about your past mistakes, whether they involved drugs, sex, alcohol, or whatever, won’t insure that she won’t repeat them. If you feel that she needs to know, tell her that you will talk about it when she is a mother herself so that she can see them as you do; through a mother’s eyes. Telling her what you did as a twenty-something doesn’t help her in any way at all. And honestly, most adult kids say they want to hear about what you did wrong, but once they do, they wish they didn’t know.
So my friend, keep quiet. That’s my advice. Being a good mother isn’t about laying yours secrets on the table in the name of being transparent or honest; being a good mother is about modeling the very best behavior that you know how to do in front of your daughter today. Period.