When Do I Tell My Kids about My Sexual Abuse?

Nov 13, 2014Q & A with Mary

This week I’m answering some difficult questions put forth by two readers.

Rachel asked:

1) How over time did you tell your children about your past? Was there a certain amount of knowledge you passed along as the children grew up or did you wait for a “teachable moment” to share pieces over the years? I don’t have children yet so for me I want to have my husband and I on the same page as to the willingness to not hide the past (especially since the abuse was from a family member who is still actively accepted by some of our family). So for me it’s about knowledge for the future while my friend has several young children 8, 10 & 11 who she is trying to determine how and when to share. Especially with her daughters as a way to make them aware of their surroundings and the people around them.

I have a question for you. Would you mind sharing how you told your daughters about what happened to you as a child? How old were they? I am struggling on what words to say to tell my 11 year old daughter about the gift of sex, when I honestly still don’t see it as a gift. I realize at the age of 11 she already has heard quite a bit. I should have had this talk with her sooner, but I haven’t found the right words to say yet. I would prefer to keep that talk as positive as I can, telling her God’s design for marriage. I want to tell her about my past at another time, but if she asks, I don’t want to lie to her. I obviously want to be age appropriate and not scare her, but I am not sure how to do this. I was 13 the first time and she is approaching that age quickly. I would appreciate any advice you can give. Thank you for all that you do. You have been a great help to me.

Rachel, I told my children at different times (each different) as they brought up the issue. I was careful not to overshare, but only give what they needed at the time. I didn’t want to have a secretive home where I kept my own secrets locked away, but I also didn’t want to harm my children by talking about it too early or too much. All that to say, there’s a nuance to this, involving the maturity of each child, God’s leading, and the need to protect them. My primary reason to share came from a desire to protect them.

That being said, you don’t necessarily have to share about your own abuse to warn your children about sexual predators. There’s a helpful book put out by the Rise and Shine Movement here. And I wrote a post about protecting our kids from sexual abuse here.

Heather, that’s a difficult question because I don’t know your daughter or where she is. But her age is a great age to begin to discuss sexual intimacy in marriage. Remember this is the beginning of a long discussion that will happen over the next few years. I think we get really amped up about having The Talk, and we forget that it’s actually more natural to initiate an ongoing discussion.

As she is more mature, and as she asks you questions, it may be good to share your story as a cautionary tale. I also feel it’s okay to be honest about your ambivalence about sex, but perhaps at a later date.

All, this is a difficult conundrum faced by every parent. We want to share cautions about sexual predators, but we also want to share the sexual intimacy can be a beautiful thing. I’m curious what some of you have done in this situation? Feel free to share in the comments.