Should you tell your kids about your dating history?
22nd September 2022

Should you tell your kids about your dating history? (Picture: Getty)

It’s no secret that you have to kiss a few frogs before finding a situation-ship you feel happy in.

In fact, only 27% of married people in the UK got hitched to their first love.

It’s a truth universally known that love can be messy – but when it comes to talking to our kids about our often chequered dating histories, it can get kind of awkward.

So much so, that many parents choose to avoid the conversation all together.

After all, do children really need to know about the time you moved in with the wrong guy, or the drunken one night stands?

Well, according to experts, yes, they do… sort of.

Therapist Emma Kenny says it’s important to consider your child’s age when having these conversations.

She says: ‘Young children, particularly pre teens, aren’t in a position where they fully understand relationships.

‘It can be confusing and upsetting to think of your so-called ‘past’ – but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have conversations with them about relationships, consent and sexual behaviour.

‘And in those conversations, giving examples of your own relationships is a great idea.

‘Evidencing why a particular relationship might have been bad – and why the one you’re in is good – is a helpful tool and technique.’

Sally Baker is a therapist and relationship expert. She agrees it’s important to talk in an age appropriate manner.

She says: ‘For very little children, the idea that mummy wasn’t always with daddy can be disturbing.

‘But most children will either be from blended or step families, or have friends that are.

‘So as they get older, it’s not a leap for them to work out that the adults in their lives may have had more than one partner – and that’s a good thing.’

Sally says that dispelling the ‘soul mate’ myth will help kids in the long run.

She says: ‘You don’t want your child to believe in the romantic notion of twin flames and finding ‘The One’ person to be with.

‘It’s archaic and all it does is set unrealistic expectations and set them up for fail.

‘They need to be aware of things like heartbreak, because if it does happen to them – and they know you’ve also been through it – they then won’t feel so isolated.’

Sally says conversations about sex are also important. She says: ‘One night stands are a reality of life. The belief that not discussing them protects your child’s innocence in someway is misguided.

‘These conversations need to be had in the context of consent and being safe.’

But Emma says parents should tread carefully. When it comes to older kids, it’s good to be open – up to a point.

Emma says: ‘Our children look at us as role models and mentors – as trusted parties that they can go to advice for.

‘You need a little bit of the ‘hero complex’. They need to look at you and think, “my mum or dad knows how to make good decisions and choices.”

‘So I think you should always be a little bit reticent about going into deep detail.

‘Having said that, for older teens and young adults, it can help to have that opportunity to allow them to have questions.

‘Answer in a way that isn’t going to be inflammatory or scary – or that you aren’t the person they believed you thought they were – but it’s fine to explore some of the mistakes you’ve made.’

But Emma says there’s a line she wouldn’t cross. She explains: ‘I’d be reticent to talk about your ‘body count’ or repeated mistakes.

‘But certainly I think you should speak to them openly and honestly about the fact that relationships are complex.

‘And also make it clear that no matter what they do in their life, you won’t judge them.

‘The different between a child and a parent is that they’re okay to judge us – as they should be – but they are your ward. You want to ensure then when you talk about you’re history, you’re not putting them in a position where they reconsider how they view you.

‘That steals something from a child in terms of their security, and how they see you.’

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