An affair is one of the most traumatic and devastating periods that any couple might go through. But after the pain of the affair and the challenge of the “recovery,” another issue may present itself: Should you tell your children?
The way a couple handles the issue of infidelity is a big decision and can impact their relationship with their kids in both the short and the long term.
While no one solution is a perfect fit for all couples, Rick Reynolds, founder of AffairRecovery.com, a new online service designed to help those struggling with the consequences of infidelity, has some insight into the situation.
“To think that infidelity doesn’t have a profound impact on both children and adult children is naïve,” Reynolds says. Here are some tips for how to proceed:
The younger the children are, the more important it is to protect them
The last thing a child needs is to have to carry the burden of your mistakes. The information you give your children needs to be age appropriate.
If the children have heard things and are asking questions, then you may need to be more open. Secrecy and pretending can be even worse. “On the other hand, if they don’t know anything about what is going on, then protecting them from the crisis might be the kindest thing you can do, even if there are adult children. There will come a time to share, but unless it’s in their best interest to know, don’t tell them,” Reynolds says.
Far too often, parents begin using their children as confidants
Children don’t have the emotional maturity necessary to handle that information, and it robs them of their childhood.
When talking to children, Rick suggests that the unfaithful person consider saying something like this: “I didn’t love (treat) your father (or mother) the way that married people should love (treat) each other.”
That’s truthful. It’s not denying the presence of a third party, but it doesn’t rock their world by bringing an unknown third party into it. Eventually, when it’s age appropriate, they should be given the story, but not in a way that gets them involved in the marriage, but so they can learn from your mistakes.
There are times that people want to use telling the children as a threat to get their mate to do what they want. This is abusive, destructive and certainly not in the children’s best interest. If it’s the two of you telling the children, then you’re presenting a safe, unified front for your children, but if you talk with them alone without your mate, they may well feel you are telling on your mate and you’ll be seen as the bad guy.
You don’t want to leave your children ill-equipped
Life is hard, especially after an affair, and you do them a disservice if you pretend otherwise. Sharing your story with your mature children allows them to both understand and to learn from your mistakes. More importantly, you want to set the example of how to respond when things are hard.