You and your spouse are getting a divorce. The reason? Your husband is cheating on you. He has been having an affair for a few years now and you just found out. You are devastated, but ready to call it quits and move on. But you are dreading something else: What should you tell the children?
Infidelity is bad enough when you have to experience it as a spouse, but when kids are involved, you have to look at it from a parent’s point of view, as well. Should your children know all the details? What do you tell them when they ask why you and the other parent are getting divorced?
This is a tricky situation. Divorce is a traumatic event for all involved—not just the spouses. Children are no doubt devastated that life as they know it will change forever. They will no longer be one big happy family living in one household. They now have to deal with a confusing life as they get shuffled from one home to another. They feel their stability is gone. They do not know what is happening from one day to the next.
Children are curious and often want to know one thing — why? Why do Mom and Dad not want to stay married anymore? What went wrong? Should they know that infidelity was the cause of the divorce?
There is no clear-cut answer to this question. What you ultimately decide to do will depend on several factors. Infidelity is actually more common than you think, affecting approximately 40% of marriages. Can sharing the details of the infidelity be helpful? Will it help your child heal and maybe even forgive the cheating parent for what they have done?
Also, your kids are feeling a sense of betrayal. They are experiencing a change in lifestyle and they should know why, to some degree. Keeping children in the dark can make the situation worse and can keep them from healing from moving on. Therefore, sharing the reason for the divorce may make sense in this case.
Honesty can also aid in communication. Many kids tend to shut down when they are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. By being truthful with your child, you are showing they can trust you. They will likely be more willing to open up and share their feelings with you.
Children need closure in their lives, as well. They are being affected by the divorce just as much as you are and they are likely feeling very emotional. They may even feel guilty, as they are the ones to blame for the marriage ending. By telling them the real reason for the divorce—infidelity—you will likely take a huge weight off their shoulders. They will learn they did not do anything to cause the divorce. They are not at fault, so revealing this information may help them feel better about themselves. Plus, it teaches them that we all make mistakes and should be forgiven when we do.
What to Consider
While there are many good reasons to tell your children about the infidelity that led to your divorce, you need to consider certain factors. For example, what is your motivation for telling your kids? Are you telling them for their own good—to benefit them—or are you simply telling them out of spite and revenge? Do not make the revelation about you. You are not the only victim of the affair. Children will be hurt as well, so is it the right decision to tell them? It will only create negative emotions and make tensions run even higher.
Also, you want to keep your child’s age in mind. How old are your children? Are they teens who have a solid grasp of acceptable behavior in relationships? Do they know about the importance of loyalty in marriage? Do they know what cheating entails? Younger children may not be able to understand these concepts as clearly. While toddlers and preschoolers may struggle to understand, older elementary-age kids may have a clearer picture of right and wrong within the confines of a marriage.
You should also consider what your child knows. You may think your child is in the dark about their parent’s affair, but kids are intuitive. They pick up on things quickly, so chances are they already have some clue as to what is going on. If they do not, perhaps you should be the one to tell them. People gossip and someone may share this information without thinking about what your child does or does not know. How would you feel if they learned about the cheating from someone else, such as a friend from school, a neighbor or even another family member? It is best that your children get this information firsthand from you. Learning about it from someone else can be a hard pill for them to swallow.
Seek Legal Help
While children should be privy to some details about their parents’ divorce, it may or may not be a good idea to tell them about infidelity. This will depend on several factors, such as their age, your motivation, whether or not the affair partner is in contact with your children and the possibility of your child finding out this information from someone else.
Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can give you the advice you need during this tumultuous time. He has more than 30 years of experience handling divorces and can help you make the right decisions. Fill out the online form or call (954) 346-6464.