When a Child Exposes an Affair

You just received the worst news of your life-your husband has been caught being unfaithful. And as if that is not enough, the person who caught him is your own child! This is a common scenario in relationships affected by infidelity. Not only is his actions a betrayal to your marriage, but it has now involved your children on a traumatic level. The complexity of your initial feelings will influence your next steps, so here are some suggestions as you walk through the fog of betrayal in those first few days after finding out.  

Be honest but discerning when talking to your child.

Lying to your child is unacceptable no matter the situation. However, being wise and age appropriate with the information you choose to share is critical. The child has been exposed to something that regardless if they understand, will feel the tension. Reassure them that you are not angry with them but are angry with the choices their father has made. This reassures them that they did nothing wrong, and that even parents can make terrible choices. 

They may have many questions regarding the content ranging from ‘what the texts meant?’ to if you are ‘going to get divorced from their father?’ I suggest choosing wisely in what questions you choose to answer while also identifying the motivation behind them. For example, many kids fear the future for their families after a crisis like this. They worry that their parents will get a divorce. Though this may in fact be the result of the betrayal, stay focused on the fear the child is experiencing; reassuring them that you and their father have a lot to talk about but will keep the child informed when big decisions need to be made. 

Don’t make any big decisions.  

Our first instinct when betrayed is self-preservation and protecting our kids. These feelings can confuse us into making rash decisions with huge consequences. We can oscillate between kicking our husband’s out to begging him to stay for the sake of the kids. Each marriage relationship is unique in what is best for the future. However, making a decision as big as endingmarriage or ignoring infidelity is more damaging in the long run. Establish a time line for when a decision will be made regarding the status of the marriage. I believe that taking a month to decide, if that is possible in your situation, would give you time to process and proceed with wisdom. That does not mean you are forced to pretend all is well. Discuss healthy boundaries, like sleeping arrangements, physical touch, and topics of conversation, to ensure that you are both emotionally and physically secure to proceed through the month.   

Find support

It’s important to bring other people into the conversation, and I’m not talking about your mom and your best friend. You need people who can help you process, who can help you proceed wisely. These people can be mental health therapists, online support groups, or pastors at a church. Stepping-out of isolation in connecting with others, like air to a wound, brings healing! 

Finding individuals who offer support and healthy wisdom is a form of self-care, something you must be intentional to practice in the days to come. Stress is debilitating in every facet: emotional, physical and relational. Make smart lifestyle choices in areas such as eating, sleeping, and taking personal time. So you can be ready for the steps ahead.  

Here are some questions to consider:

Who can be your support during this season of crisis? 
What have you identified as the motivation behind the questions your children have asked? (i.e. fear, anger, hurt) 

Paige Clingenpeel

Teen Therapist working with teens and parents on TV, Radio, Web-Based Media, Blogs, and Print. Presently a monthly contributor to the women's parenting & marriage site iMom.com, and host of TBN's Tween show iShine K'Nect. Paige also provides individual therapy at LifeSprings Counseling Center, and works at Parkview Health as a student assistant counselor assigned to Carroll High School. Paige is married to Ryan and has two daughters and two sons!