I Was A Drunken Teenage Idiot. Do I Tell My Kids?

Dear Sober Dad,

Our teenage kids have been asking about what we did when we were teens. My wife and I were both practicing alcoholics from middle school. How much information is too much information?

Clark R., New Braunfels, Texas.


Dear Clark,

            Any information is probably too much information.

It’s important to tell your children the truth, but it’s not necessary to tell them the whole truth.

Sober Dad’s wife is a civilian and would be shocked and appalled if she knew the truth about her husband’s exploits from age 15 and beyond.

There’s just no point in sharing information that will only diminish your standing as a parent in the eyes of your children.

Blanket, non-specific statements are best, as in, “I did things I look back on and regret.”

Then make clear, in a courteous manner, that you have said all you are going to say, thus foreclosing additional discussion.

Now let’s discuss what you and your spouse should share with each other about your past histories.

During his dating years, Sober Dad was never comfortable when the women he courted sat him down for the often-Homeric list of past relationships.

What was the point?

I just figured that one day I would be on that list, recounted to other men.

My wife and I actually made a pact that we would just not dip into any of that.

There are no illusions that we sat home nights prior to meeting each other. It’s just that we never figured out why knowing so many details would actually enhance our relationship.

Oversharing with a spouse or with children never ends well.

To come back to the question of your children, it’s understandable that they would be curious, especially if you go to meetings regularly and do not have alcohol in the house. But your home is not the Oprah show, and anything you say about yourself almost certainly will be repeated to your children’s friends. It just never ends well.

Keep it vague.

They call it the past for a reason—because it’s over.