1. CRISIS MANAGEMENT

DO I TELL THE KIDS?

Deciding whether to share some or any information with your children may be a gut-wrenchingly emotional decision for a couple. Your therapist will very delicately and carefully help you work through your emotions and reasoning. Don't assume that you will figure it out in one session or that the process will be easy.

 

The answers that you reach will vary based on the age of the child, the developmental stage, and her or his personality. But, no matter what factors are involved, it is definitely worth it to be thoughtful and to be in sync with your partner. 

We have reflected the two schools of thought below.

YES, TELL THE KIDS

The points on this side include:

  • children have a right to transparency within their own family unit.

  • children deserve to know why mom and dad are arguing, or why one parent left the family home.

  • telling the child will build a more trusting and loving relationship with them in the long run.

  • telling them allows you to start rebuilding the damage done.

  • keeping secrets from family members robs the family of closeness.

  • the children eventually figure out something is wrong and don't understand it, thus creating disorientation.

  • children will know you're not telling the truth and will stop trusting anything you say.

  • telling the children may help prevent a recurrence of the affair by having the affair partner fully face the family with what he/she has done.

  • even young children (as young as 7 years old) can understand what has happened.

NO, DON'T TELL THE KIDS

Others believe that children should not be told unless they are 18 or even older. The points on this side:

  • this is adult business of the most complex nature and cannot be distilled into understandable explanations for children.

  • children are ill-equipped to handle information of this magnitude.

  • infidelity is a marital issue between the spouses and should not impact parenting.

  • children benefit from a healthy relationship with both parents; sharing this information puts that at risk by making one parent to be alienated from the child.

  • knowledge of the infidelity adds unnecessary stress to their lives.

  • the children may feel forced to take sides and choose between parents.

  • when asked, most children say they do not want to know.

OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS

As if it is not complicated enough, consider these factors:

  • what if the affair partner is in the child's life as a family member or a teacher?

  • what if the affair partner has children who know and may interact with your children?

OUR ADVICE

Since the situation varies so greatly from family to family and from kid to kid, we do not take a side on this argument. We've seen it work out well when they are told and when they are not told. 

Nonetheless, we strongly recommend that the couple:

  • fully commit to doing what is best for the children, and
     

  • spend enough time (often in therapy) talking about the issues discussed on this page, agree on an approach, and present a unified front to the children.

Even if the marital bond ends, the co-parenting relationship will remain and should be treated with highest possible care and respect.

If you decide to tell the children, refer to our "What to Tell the Kids" page.