Here at Affaircare we do believe you should talk to your children when your spouse is having an affair. They are going to notice that something is wrong, and their world is about to be turned upside down just like yours–so they need a parent to tell them what happened and why.
So in this episode of our weekly podcast we are going to discuss WHY you should talk to your kids about your spouse’s affair, HOW to talk to them about it in an age-appropriate way, WHERE they are developmentally, and then give a specific example of how to word it.
Lots advise hiding it from them or lying about the situation by saying something cliche like: “We’ve grown apart and decided we can’t live together anymore.” We don’t believe that’s appropriate, nor does it honor God, no does it respect your children, nor does it teach them to be honest! It sends the children a confusing message for their parents to “grow apart and not be able to live together” but they are told to “just get along” with kids in their class who bully them or tease them. If parents can just run away when they don’t get along, why can’t they?
So we do recommend speaking to the children and telling them the truth about the affair. No doubt the disloyal spouse will be against this because they don’t want their adultery held up to the light of day. And clearly telling the children all the details of infidelity is WAY beyond their capacity to cope and deal with it.
Rather we recommend keeping it simple but honest, sticking with the truth, and keep the focus on what YOU believe and what you think/feel. Do not bad-mouth the disloyal, even if it is the truth, because that puts the focus of your talk on the disloyal and you are saying “S/He did ___” and “S/He thinks we ___” and you can’t speak for them! Plus, the disloyal is your children’s parent and a part of THEM and always will be in their life! Neither you or your kids can make the disloyal be a good parent, but you can be honest with your childrent and tell them how the unfaithful behavior differs from what you believe.
Less than elementary school age:
Developmentally they do not understand anything about “relationships” or “marriage”–they’d only understand that mommy and daddy are their family, and that they need both mommy and daddy. They’d have very basic understanding of right and wrong (something is a ‘no no’), and at this age they tend to see their parents as “gods”.
Be very simple: “I believe mommies and daddies make a promise to only love each other and have no other boyfriend or girlfriend. Mommy has a boyfriend and I believe that is a ‘no no’ and I feel sad about it.“
Elementary school age:
Developmentally they do not understand the entire dynamic of “relationships” or “marriage” but they have some idea from observing their parents and seeing their friends’ parents…and they have some vocabulary to express themselves better. They are old enough to have a firm grasp of right and wrong (like lying is naughty), and probably have some basics on morals and values. They will tend to view their parents as “authorities” and they probably will think that parents are splitting because they were bad or because they weren’t good enough for mommy/daddy to love them.
Still keep it simple and no disrespecting the disloyal spouse–just tell the truth and the facts: “You know how we’ve gone to Sunday School and talked about things that are right and wrong, like lying and stealing are wrong? Well I believe when moms and dads marry, they make a promise to only love each other and that would mean having no boyfriends or girlfriends, right? Daddy has a girlfriend and I believe that is wrong. So as long as he has his girlfriend, he will be moving out, and we will be staying right here. You will have your same room and your same school and your same friends, and I will be here if you have any questions or want to talk. Okay?”
Middle school age:
Developmentally they do not understand the entire dynamic of “relationships” or “marriage” but they may have had their first boy/girl crush and certainly know about dating…plus they have even more ability to vocalize their thoughts and feelings. They are old enough to know right from wrong, and their morals and values are being formed and finalized. This is the age of bar/bat mitzvah or confirmation where they begin the transition to adulthood. They will tend to think that parents are weird, dorks, embarrassing, and irritating…and may try things that are 100% different than their parents’ beliefs just to shock them (and to see if THEY truly believe it too).
It might be similar to the elementary school talk but a bit more advanced–still no disrespecting the disloyal and still just stick to the truth and the facts: “I’m sure you can tell something is wrong between your mom and I. She is going to be moving out, and I wanted you to know why. You know how we’ve always taught you about right and wrong? Well I believe when people marry, they take a vow to only love each other and that would mean having no boyfriends or girlfriends, right? Well, your mom has a boyfriend and I believe that is wrong. I’ve asked her to give up her boyfriend and return to the family but she has chosen not to. So as long as she has her boyfriend and won’t give him up, she will be moving out. I suspect you feel hurt and upset, but I’m here if you want to talk, okay?“
High school age:
Developmentally they THINK they understand the dynamic of “relationships” and “marriage,” and no doubt they’ve had their first boy/girlfriend, but they do not know the entirety of it. They are fully capable of expressing themselves verbally, but with the onset of puberty, the world is one big drama and they may prefer to talk to their friends or write in a journal. They should already have a very firm grasp of right and wrong, and nearly adult understanding of morals and values. This is the age of testing their young adulthood. This is the age when they are separating from their parents so they will tend to see their parents’ weaknesses and feet of clay, and they’ll likely value their friends first.
A bit more advanced than the middle school talk, but still no disrespecting the disloyal and still just stick to the truth and the facts: “I’m sure you can tell something is wrong between your father and I. He is going to be moving out, and I wanted you to know why. You’re mature enough now to know right from wrong. I believe when people marry, they take a vow before God to forsake all others and only love each other so the family is stable and strong. Well, I found out your dad has a girlfriend and I believe that is wrong. I’ve asked him to give up his girlfriend and return to the family but he choses not to. So as long as he has his girlfriend and won’t give her up, he will be moving out. I suspect you feel really hurt, but I’m here if you want to talk.“
We can not go into everything your kids may or may not ask–otherwise this video would be hours long! But this will be an honest way to get the conversation started so that they know that at least one parent will be honest with them and tell them the real truth![audio: https://s3.amazonaws.com/affaircare-podcast/2016/Edit+20160401+How+to+Talk+to+Your+Kids.mp3]