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'Kids, Dad Had an Affair'

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If daddy's a cheater, how do you break it to the kids?


The stories keep on coming. Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook, Madonna and A-Rod and Sienna Miller Balthazar Getty are all involved in presumed affairs--and there are young children in the picture. We asked momlogic contributor Shannon Fox about how to speak to kids if this happens in your family.

"In these particular cases, the children are mostly too young to talk about the sexual aspect of an affair. In general, I don't recommend that couples explain specifics of their split to their children. Affairs especially are always very damaging to children, no matter when they find out.

Hopefully, because these kids are this young, they may be safe from the public element. The older ones may be at risk because kids will always say mean things. But, your job as a parent is never to demonize the other parent.

Your kids need to believe--for their own sense of security--that both parents are always right, that they always look out for their best interest, and that they will always be there for them. You will undermine their sense of security if you speak poorly about their parent. Your kids need to have such faith in their dad that they would respond to any outside suggestions by saying "My dad would never do anything like that to my mom."

As a therapist, I usually encourage honesty, but in this case, the truth is more harmful to the child than a white lie. Eventually, things will become apparent, and they'll comprehend what an affair is and what it means.

You cannot protect your children from their parents' failings forever; it's ideal to put that off as long as possible. The moment that your children find out that you and your spouse are not perfect can be traumatizing, so you want to protect them from that.

If for some reason there is no way to avoid them finding out--for example, they witness the affair with their own eyes--both parents need to get together and talk about it to their kids as a unit. If the marriage going to go on, ideally the father would say, "I was spending time with another woman and I hurt Mommy's feelings and I will never do that again because I care about her." If there will be a split, you can say something like, "Daddy was spending time with another woman and it hurt my feelings." It doesn't vilify him, but explains the situation.

As the saying goes...'Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned.' It's important not to take out your anger at him on your kids. He loves your kids and although he did something that will end up hurting them, it's your job to minimize their pain."

See other famous cheaters and their scandals from over the years...

next: A Plastic Surgeon Reveals...
59 comments so far | Post a comment now
John July 18, 2008, 9:45 PM

Mom should tell the kids dad had affair because mommy is boring in bed and bad at sex. So daddy had to find a real woman!!
Most men who so calls cheat do so because their woman is worthless in bed.
Want to keep your man put out and be good at it.
Thats your job in life!!

Debi July 18, 2008, 10:20 PM

Okay, I didn’t even read the article only because if the kids aren’t asking questions then don’t tell and certainly don’t bad mouth the cheater to the kids they will find out the truth in thier own time. The only reason one would have to tell children is to gain brownie points with them and make the other parent look bad, this idea will eventually back fire.

jlynn July 18, 2008, 10:22 PM

Is this lady for real??? What world does she live?? It happened to me and my kids after 20 ys of marriage. No, I had no idea he was having a affair, and we raised our kids that this stuff was wrong and immoral. So when they did find out, like when they she her giving him head in his truck in a grocery parking, heck yea, they dont have anything to do with him and it has been 4 yrs since it happened. Lady live in the real world, you are full of it!!!! Next time, ask the kids and see what they say.

Ken July 18, 2008, 10:26 PM

Cheating is much more “common” than most people want to admit. Probably, 80% of either side of a relationship have had an affair or two or three… or yikes more? 50% of marriage end in divorce - mostly because of this behavior “caught”. Of the other 35% I wonder how many have had a fling - serious or not - and never got caught. I was a cop - for 25 years… and yikes… only a priest might know more than the cops about the “machinations” of men and women after dark - or even during the day (when the cat’s away). It is better if two people can love each other for the rest of their lives… but, it’s “not” as common as we’d like to believe. AS MANY WOMEN cheat on their men… (since all the guys are not “fooling” around with the same gir!!!) THINK! And, for the sex part???? It’s a good question to ask “before” you get married. “Hey hon… how many times a week do you really want sex?” Sounds soooo dumb… but, it’s all about “time and attention” then, the love comes in to the mix too! That’s the honest evaluation of an ex-cop… not a psychologist - but, probably 5 notches smarter than those with their couches too!

KatieCouric'sNemesis July 18, 2008, 10:39 PM

This is typical psychobabble. Children who have reached the age of reason are not stupid. They will sense something is wrong, and blame themselves. That is worse than finding out that Daddy can’t keep it in his pants or Mommy’s got the hots for the milkman. Better to tell them that Mommy and Daddy are going through a sticky patch and that, no matter what, they are loved and cherished by BOTH parents, which is their birthright, despite what’s going on with the progenitors.

Alley July 18, 2008, 10:59 PM

Well, my parents divorced when I was seventeen. It had been a long time coming and infidelity was not the primary issue in the marriage. My parent’s relationship was unstable and my dad sought out another to satisfy a bond, perhaps not completely physical, but for companionship. Many people speculate that cheating is wrong while two people are still married, but I tend to disagree. My dad was very forward about his affair. I thank him for his honesty, if he would have lied, I think it would have spoken poorly for men, and to discredit the entire sex is extremely unfair.

RLow July 18, 2008, 11:03 PM

The lies are even more fun when you didn’t cheat and the other tells the kid that you did. Damned if you do and Damned if you don’t.

Liz July 18, 2008, 11:07 PM

The truth shall set u free :)

Greg July 18, 2008, 11:14 PM

>>If a pet cat strays, it’s because of a lack of affection at home.
>>If a pet dog strays, it’s because of a lack of affection at home.
>>If a woman strays, it’s because of a lack of affection at home.
>>If a man strays, women say it’s because all men are scum.

Chuck July 18, 2008, 11:20 PM

I hate this Head Line. What about the women that cheat. Have you seen the percentage of working women that have affairs?

Tell Them the Truth July 18, 2008, 11:26 PM

You say to them, kids mommy’s puzzy wasn’t good anymore and she wouldn’t give daddy a bj. But the new lady would do all the things that mommy refused to do. Because mommy was too good to please daddy. Mommy didn’t realize that if she didn’t take care of her man someone else would. Tell them that.

Lorna July 18, 2008, 11:28 PM

Why not handle it (infidelity) like any other problem that would lead to divorce? Why should a person feel compelled to tell a child about their or their partner’s sex life? Couldn’t you just say that you can’t get along or can’t be happy together anymore? Surely by the time they get to JR High, they know what it means to be “cheaten on”, and can figure the rest out themselves. I’m sure chilren of divorce have enough to deal with without having that put on them too.

Kim July 18, 2008, 11:34 PM

I hate to break it to ya, but almost all kids that aren’t living under a rock knows when adults are being jerks -whether they be lying jerks or cheating jerks. THEY LEARN ABOUT ADULTERY IN SUNDAY SCHOOL, AT TEMPLE, OR ON SOAP OPERAS. The one’s naive enough to believe mom if she says “Daddy spent time with another woman and it hurt my feelings” will probably just end up thinking that it’s not okay to associate yourself with a member of the opposite sex if you are in a committed relationship. And don’t we have enough kids fighting over that sort of junior high drama? “you glanced at my boyfriend, grrr, you skank” ?

wendy July 18, 2008, 11:39 PM

That is wrong..Kids should know the truth about a parent when they are able to understand. REASON??? The parent has the potential to use and abuse…The child needs to know what the parent is capable of…sad but true. Been through it with my ex. I always compliment what is good about him..but have to tell the truth about whats not so good. I learned the hard way..he already abused my oldest girl prior to the divorce and after..not sexually but other ways and he used her to his advantage like he did me and will do it to his sons if he has the chance. It’s my job to protect my children even if its not pretty.

Polly July 18, 2008, 11:40 PM

I do not agree with this at all. I think it is more damaging to lie to a child and then they see lies and do not believe anything you tell them ever again. My husband used the internet to email prostitutes and meet up with locally. I only found out because our internet software crashed and when I fixed his sn I looked in his mail box and saw. I took our child and moved out two weeks ago….

pepper July 18, 2008, 11:48 PM

A.) my husband would NEVER admit that he did anything wrong, much less apologize for hurting my feelings….like he’s done so for years.
B.) my daughter told ME!! about the
affir. she accidently read a text message and was VERY hurt to find out that her dad was a jerk, like I knew he was. I knew about the affair, and chose NOT to tell her, but she told me.

PLNinAlaska July 18, 2008, 11:51 PM

Or the woman right here in Alaska who was having an online affair, Then made arrangements to meet the guy in a hotel. What she forgot to factor in That it might be her husband in the next room on a laptop. LMAO. He saved, printed everything, won the house, kids, everything.
So, Womens magazine, Your subscribers cause problems just as much as we men !

Lala July 18, 2008, 11:56 PM

I completely disagree with this therapist. Most children tend to blame the parent who asks the cheating parent to leave the family home. I think the children have the right to know that the spouse cheated on their mother/father and that they still love the children. Let’s face it, a cheating spouse is betraying the entire family not just their spouse. I think you can tell them in a way that they won’t blame themselves for the breakup of the marriage or the spouse who was cheated on, but to question the betraying parent. JMHO

anonymous July 19, 2008, 12:45 AM

My dad cheated on my mom through out their 35 year marriage. No one had to tell me, I knew something was wrong. It broke my heart. You are supposed to believe growing up that your dad is infallible, a hero.
It devestated my entire family.

El July 19, 2008, 12:53 AM

I cheated on my husband…we didn’t have any kids- not that that makes it any less horrible and destructive to a family. I hurt my EX-husband terribly. I should have gotten counseling for my issues instead of acting the way I did.
Since then I have had major therapy and have a new family- where I have been completely loyal to my husband.
I am relieved that I got the counseling and learned what my issues were. I am blessed with a new family and happiness.
I only wish I hadn’t put my ex-husband through that hell.

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