It’s so hard to know what to do if your spouse cheats and repercussions happen that affect the children. Whether it is a period of separation, or emotional trauma happening in the household, or worse, a divorce – the kids end up being affected. You can lessen the trauma on the kids if you know what to say to them.
Here’s what you need to know in order to decide whether or not to tell the kids about the affair.
The Children Are Your First Priority
Both of you must take the time to remember, that no matter what you’re going through yourselves, the children have to come first. Whatever emotional baggage and fallout that occurs due to your spouse’s affair needs to be left outside of the interactions you have with the children.
After all, the parent who cheated is still your child’s parent too. Cheating doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad parent. A bad spouse, yes, but not a bad parent.
Keep Adult Things Adult When Possible
The truth is most of the time there is no reason to ever tell the children about the cheating. It is okay to just explain that you and your spouse are “divorcing”, “separated”, “in counseling” due to issues that have nothing to do with the children. It’s okay to talk about the issue in terms for their age group.
If they are young, tell them mommy and daddy fight sometimes but it’s not their fault and you both love them. Change the words for older children but the sentiment should stay the same.
Do it Together
Whatever you tell the kids, it’s important to try to do it together if at all possible. The more you can show a united front for the kids, the better. They need to see that you and your spouse are committed to being the same good parents you always were.
Children feel displaced when they think things are changing too much or that they’re losing their safety net. You want to ensure that they feel safe and loved and that at least that will not change.
It’s Not Their Fault
Children are naturally very self-centered. This isn’t meant to be thought of in a bad way. That’s just how children are. Due to that, when something happens, they naturally think that it’s their fault.
You will need to tell them with words, in a very clear manner, that it is not their fault. If you need to tell them more than once to ensure that they get it, then you need to do it. Do what it takes.
Have a Plan of Action
Before you do anything, it’s important that you and your spouse are on the same page and have the same plan. It doesn’t matter if you’re divorcing or staying together, you have to make an agreement on how you’ll talk to the kids about everything.
Be sure to agree on the words that you’ll use with the kids, in order to make sure your family gets through everything without the children feeling lost, afraid, or as if the rug has been pulled out from under them.
What to Do if the Kids Already Know
Sometimes, children discover things on their own. They see things or hear things they should not. Or, maybe you and your spouse already made a mistake and shared adult things with your children. If that is the case, it’s okay.
Explain to the children that even when adults make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It also doesn’t always mean that they don’t love their spouse. People aren’t perfect, and we need to try to forgive people, even though it is hard.
Use the Right Language
When talking to children about anything to do with the relationship between husband and wife, it’s very important that you don’t use any blaming language. Even though the person who cheated was in the wrong, you don’t want your children to feel bad for being related to someone who made a mistake. You want them to understand that people do make mistakes, and that they can overcome them given the time and forgiveness.
Get Professional Help
When a spouse cheats what to tell the kids is up to you and your spouse. However, it cannot be anything bad about either parent. Everything needs to be phrased in a positive way, using words that don’t damage, place blame or hurt anyone. Sometimes this can be very difficult. But, if you get help from a professional it can go a lot easier.
Family counselors, divorce coaches, and other professionals who have experience dealing with cheating and troubled families can help tremendously. Finally, just seek to be as honest as you can on the child’s level. Young children don’t understand sex, or cheating, or any of it.
While older children might understand it, you really should seek to keep this information from them if at all possible. It can be very confusing, and cause problems far into the future for some children due to trust issues and other issues that arise.
Most of all make sure the children know that you both love them, and care for them, just as much as you ever did no matter what happens to your marriage or between the two of you. After all, what kids need most is security. Nothing can offer them more security and reassurance than the two of you. Don’t allow the cheating to interfere with that security for your children. Not now, and not ever.