Full question: Did you have a rebellious or unbelieving period when you were growing up? If you did, how much have you told your kids and what age were they? What do you recommend for parents in these circumstances?
I decided to leave all answers anonymous. Most parents were against disclosure of these things to kids, but many didn't have personal experience. I would love to hear others' opinions of this.
We didn't really have any major rebellions. What I have learned is mostly from listening to younger teenagers I have taught. They feel like they can do anything their parents do or have done. They feel like if their parents survived it they can too.
If you are going to share repentance stories with them – Junior high is definitely too young to share any specifics.
However we believe it is just as big a mistake be pious or to act like you’ve never made mistakes. And we have shared many life experiences and choices both good and bad.
My husband grew up in a less active home but went to church mostly for social reasons. When it was time to go on a mission, he saw many of his friends go but still had little desire and little encouragement from his parents. After about a year, he said the Spirit kept gnawing at him and he wanted to follow the good example of his friends. So at 20 1/2 years old he decided to serve a mission. Our children all knew he went later and struggled with the decision but he told our children continually throughout their lives that it changed his life for the better, was the best decision he ever made, and gave him the foundation and testimony that guided his life from then on.
It doesn't serve to tell all to your children. The message from the Lord is that if we truly repent he will remember our sins no more. Why should we then, as parents, bring those things up again? It would only serve our children well if the Spirit moves us to the decision to share and only with the bare minimum of facts. Details should be kept quiet. The emphasis should be on repentance and our spiritual experience in becoming clean and whole again.
We as parents must stay very close to the Spirit as this time arrives for our children and their challenges. The years when they are tempted with drugs and alcohol and peer pressure are delicate ones. If you haven't established a pattern of communication and trust with your children by then, telling them you messed up is not going to help.
My husband was a convert to the Church and he had some wild oats to sew and was even encouraged by his parents to do it. That was never a secret from our teenagers. But the stories told were always understood to have the caveat that Dad did not have the knowledge then that he gained when he learned the gospel. They were always light, funny and a little embarrassing for Dad. It was never given as something that he missed or something that made him seem or feel better.
We have had other experiences in our family that required delicacy when the children were in their teens and could understand. We had a relative who, as a youngster, became a predator. When he came to live in our area he was in the process of repentance and counseling. We invited him to family functions but with some trepidation. All of our children were old enough to understand the problem and the concerns of having other smaller children of the family alone with him. We sat our kids down and explained that their cousin had made some grievous mistakes and it was our responsibility to be sure they wouldn't happen again in our home. We asked them to inconvenience themselves somewhat to protect the much younger cousins who would also be at the family gathering. They took it on themselves to rotate the job of being in the older cousin's presence at all times. They also kept a watchful eye on the little ones.
It seemed like a terrible thing to have to share and require of these kids, but what has come of it is the full repentance and reinstatement of the older cousin into society. The little cousins are unaware of any problems with him, and our children have a continued relationship with their cousin. They even were able to be at the temple when he received his endowment.
We also had to deal with my father being an alcoholic. As I grew up this was the secret everyone knew and nobody talked about. When the children were a little older and a need to know came up, we explained it all to them. Once again, we explained it so they would understand some of the details of my relationship with my father and mother. We told them enough to help them feel compassion for their grandfather and to understand the nature of addiction. It was still important for them to understand and love him too, so we also told them about his goodness and his talents.
Once again, it is a function of the Spirit to guide us as parents. The things that will help our children grow stronger and closer to God are the things they need to know.
No, neither of us experienced a rebellious period in our teenage years. But I can’t imagine much benefit coming from telling children those things. When my husband was a Bishop, one of his Young Men’s Presidents liked to share his youthful indiscretions with the youth. Some comments from the young men were, “Brother ________ did that, and look at him today, it can’t be that bad.” I know that there are times that it could be a help to a teenager, but I would think that it would only be appropriate after much prayer and seeking the guidance of the spirit. My husband also told me of a family where “too much” unneeded information was shared with children, and he felt it may have been the downfall of two of their daughters during teenage years.
I think it’s great to share with them, difficulties that we have overcome, but details of what they are told should be considered very carefully.
I did not have a rebellious time in my growing up days--just a stubbornness streak that caused friction between me and my parents. I would think that in such a case, however, it would be an opportunity to teach the consequences of the rebellious behavior, both physical and spiritual.
We didn't have this problem nor did our children. We would advise parents that they don't have to have a "tell all" conversation with their children. Maybe they could even say they knew someone who had those problems, but then it is up to the parent what he/she tells. Sometimes the children will hold it against the parent/s so they can do those things or ridicule their parent/s. It's a fine line we think. That's the risk we take when confessing things to them.
When I was 12 I decided that personal prayer was not important. But I enjoyed church and still was an active participant. Years later when I was 21, I met a girl that made me promise to pray that night and start reading the B of M. I did what she said for some reason. A few months later I was on a mission to Japan. This mission changed my life. The girl wrote me on my mission for a while but she found someone else before I came home. At that time I had no idea why she had such an influence on me. But I was happy she influenced my life.
Next week's question: Do you feel fairly regular family vacations were worth the cost? Why? How often did you go on family vacations and what were your most meaningful ones?