Tuesday Topic: How Much Should They Share?

This Tuesday Topic is especially good for those of us with children heading into adolescence, but is useful for any of us with kids from the “hard places”:

We have two daughters who were adopted at an older age.  They came with stories and a history that they can speak about.  One of these daughters attended a sleepover and I was told that “scary” (silly) stories were being shared as the girls lay in their sleeping bags before sleep.  It got me thinking about how to counsel my girls about what they should not share about their past lives.

I certainly do not want them to think I am ashamed of their past and they both love to tell stories about their country.  However, the older one especially, has some pretty serious, delicate life experiences she remembers vividly and I want to be able to give her advice on what she should keep to herself.  I may be worrying unnecessarily and she might do a good job of filtering for herself.  I would really like to know how others have handled this issue or if it has ever come up.

Imagine this question just came up over a cup of coffee with your friend.  What advice would you offer?  Send your thoughts as comments to this post.  I will hold your answers and post them all at once on Monday, June 28th.  Thank you for taking a few moments to help a fellow parent.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Michelle
    June 22, 2010

    We are just dealing with this with our 6 year old twins from Ethiopia.
    We are starting the W.I.S.E up Powerbook so we can work through it this summer and review it before they start school in September. It was recommended to us as being a great way to help our kids answer questions about their lives: http://adoption.about.com/od/guidereviews/fr/wisehttp://www.amazon.com/W-I-S-E-Up-Powerbook-Marily

  2. Melissa
    June 22, 2010

    When we brought 2 older kids (10 and 14) home from Uganda we had the same issue. They could speak English so they were able to open up fairly quickly. I talked to the 14 year old about how some of her stories would scare some of the kids her age. She didn't get it at first but I made up a pretend scary story that was similar to hers and she said that it scared her.

    I also told both of them that anytime they want to talk about their time in Uganda that they should talk to me or their dad about them. This also helped with bonding because they learned to trust us with their fears. The oldest is now 19 and wants to eventually become a counselor and move to an African country and counsel kids in orphanages.

  3. Kathrin
    June 22, 2010

    What a great question. I was wondering about that myself. If people ask me questions about my girl, do I answer and how much do I share? I feel that her story is for her to share. And yes I do think, that we need to protect our children from getting hurt again. People might react in a painful or unhealthy way. They might even blame the kids for what happend to them. Parents might not want their children confronted with such bad stories. I think I would ask my children to talk about the friends they had, the food they liked and everyday things like that and to talk about the more private things at home.

  4. Samantha
    June 22, 2010

    Great, great great blog!!!!! I'm a Quiverful mama of 2 soon to be 3 and I long for more bloggers out there that talk about raising children—-lot's of them!! While it's quite possible God will only bless us with 3 but if we have more I'd like to be prepaired! Sharing—–hmmm we are dealing with a lot of issues surronding this topis right now!!


  5. Eileen
    June 23, 2010

    We have a child with a health condition that while we're not ashamed of, we don't necessarily think it's an appropriate conversation starter. We had a Family Home Evening (a once a week meeting where we'll have a lesson, treat, and game) about how some things aren't "secrets", but they also aren't really appropriate casual conversations. This is a lesson all of our kids need. We added some fun into it by telling some funny stories of things our older kids said when they were little and let the younger ones tell us if they thought that was appropriate or not. Some of those were obvious no-no's. Once we were at church and a sweet lady in the pew in front of us asked our toddler son how he was doing. He answered, "Pretty good…..but my rear itches." Honest, yes, but not necessarily something to share.

    From there, we moved onto things like money (how much our house costs or how much they think their dad makes), private conversations they've heard at home, health issues (and we didn't even mention our youngest daughter's condition, but used an example of her older sister and how when she had a bladder infection many years ago, she announced to a room full of people that she was having "problems with her tinkles" and that she had a "tinkle affection". After that story, our youngest daughter then brought up her own disease and said maybe she shouldn't talk about it to everyone. "Wow," we said, "that's great thinking. We agree."), their sibling's grades, stories that are deeply personal or highly emotional (and we gave some examples), etc. We also stressed that all of these topics were not off limits, but they need to be spoken of at the right time with the right people. If you have a problem with an itchy rear, well, there are people you can talk to. We role-played with a few conversations I'd printed out so they could see how it's hard to be on the receiving end of awkward personal revelations. None of these stories pertained to us, so I could make them kind of silly, but I think it was good to realize that when you're just chatting with someone and they mention their inflamed bowel or their aunt's nasty divorce, it's hard to come up with a response. Anyway, I think it was a successful family night. Even as a 38 year-old, sometimes I think I share too much in casual conversation. It's a life-long lesson.

  6. Julie
    June 24, 2010

    Our daughter is only 6.5, but her life experiences involve lots of scary situations. Although it doesn't come out in story form, it does show up in her play time. Often, she'll say, Let's pretend there's a bad guy, and he…."

    Sleepovers are scary for me, because they can be such an opportunity for unhealthy conversation or worse. I really thought our little one would never be able to attend a sleepover because of her past. However, we are going to have to cross that bridge someday, and I would love to hear what others say.

    Here's my thought process right now. It may change tomorrow. 🙂

    Her story is hers to share. As her protector and the one who cares the most, you should be sure to help her understand that not everyone is trustworthy enough to carry her life story with honor. Only those who have earned her trust deserve to know the deepest truth. I would also coach her to only share private/personal information with you and her therapist, so that you can help her to heal and process that kind of pain.

    In Christ,


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