Handling the crisis of a spouse’s affair and the resulting divorce can be overwhelming. During this crisis, your actions can greatly affect you, your children and the family. One of the most difficult areas to navigate is what to tell the children when they ask why you are divorcing. I suggest you consider the following questions:
1. Will telling them about your spouse’s affair help address their concerns about your divorce?
Your children will be worried about what will happen to them during and after the divorce. Ask yourself how knowing about the affair will be helpful to them during this adjustment? Most children don’t want to know anything about their parents’ sex life even when things are going well.
2. How will telling them affect their relationships with the other parent?
Your children need to feel that their relationship with both their parents is secure. Telling them about the affair will cause conflicting loyalties towards the other parent. They could experience another loss and high levels of confusion and stress.
3. Are you telling them for your benefit or for their benefit?
It is important for you to explore your feelings of anger and hurt and the motivation for wanting to tell your kids. There may be other ways for you to get support for the pain and suffering you are experiencing during this time. You may feel it is not fair that the kids get to love and enjoy your spouse even though he or she hurt you so much. You may really want to hurt your spouse and see them suffer some consequences. However, if you focus on what is best for your children, you may be able to separate your feelings towards your spouse and let the kids have their relationship with their parent.
4. What do you want your kids to remember about the divorce?
Your kids will be as strong as their parents’ ability to handle their emotions during and after the divorce. Protecting them from unnecessary information will help them focus on their own needs. You must take good care of yourself during this time. Let the generous part of you guide you and seek the help and support you need at this time. You want to look back on your actions during the divorce with pride.
Knowing my children’s unique characters and needs, what will be best for them to know and not know? Focusing on their best interests and what they need in order to keep feeling loved and secure with both of you should guide your decision about what to tell them. In my experience, it is best to discuss a Divorce Story with your spouse ahead of time, and talk to the kids about the “why” in a non blaming way.
After you consider these topics, I strongly suggest you consult with a professional specializing in divorce to help you be clear and concise before you talk to your children.
Couples counseling San Mateo provided by Edna Avraham, MFT.