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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
Charlie July 19, 2008, 1:02 AM

Too bad this was written from such a sexist point of view. I had to deal with my 5 and 8 year old when their mom decided to move out and move in with the love of her life. Hey wise lady, how DO you respond to kids quetions when theor mother moves out, really wants NOTHING to do with them any longer, and you suddenly find yourself as a single parent father? Too bad so many of you experts think this only happend to some poor tragic woman. It’s a lot harder for a Dad to tell the kids mom doesn’t want to see you anymore.

JMP July 19, 2008, 1:22 AM


Heather July 19, 2008, 2:05 AM

where did they find this “therapist”?
where did she get her license???? i dont care what you did you never lie to your kids. kids see and know alot more than people give them credit for and they mimic what they learn from their parents. if it is somthing like that then you tell them what is appropriate(i know i spelled that wrong) for their age and say we will talk it about it when you are older and able to understand. and most importantly—- make sure they understand that it is in NO WAY their fault and they are very much loved BY BOTH PARENTS. and also dont involve them dont put them in the middle or use them as “weapons” against the other parent no matter how tempting it may be. and i am speaking from experience.

Anonymous July 19, 2008, 3:49 AM

this is all bs………… about when the cheater is mom,….you stupid *uck….i never cheated & yet i’m lumped with all the men……. all i did was be there.

Beth July 19, 2008, 3:54 AM

I will be facing this myself, I’ve always believed in honesty. I don’t like it when my son lies to me, so why would I lie to him? I’ve cheated and been cheated on within my marriage. It hurts everyone in the family unit. My son is 7. I may not tell him details, but he has to know the truth. I don’t hate my spouse, and I would hope that he doesn’t hate me. It would help in our nation if parents were “plugged” into our children. Kids need to see how “grown” adults handle the end of a relationship. Name calling, and bashing of the childs parent will not help any situation. My husband and I are planning to remain friends even after we go our own ways. We have to, We have a son together, and Nothing is going to change that. Both of our parents are still married, and neither of us wanted our son to be hurt by our mistakes. Lying would only be another mistake that will hurt our son. DON’T lie to your children, be honest with them. Isn’t that what you would want?

O July 19, 2008, 9:30 AM

I have stood outside for many years and waited on someone to let me in a door which has been locked from the inside. I am the one who should feel rejected.

I have been told by members of my own family :

“I will never be satisfied until I see you homeless and living under a bridge.”

“I will destroy you!”

“Don’t tell mom that I talked to you … she will get mad.” (Doesn’t that sound really stupid? … What if I said ‘Don’t talk to your mom … I will get really mad!?”

“Don’t send the kids presents; it really confuses them.”

Every job I have worked the past few years has been called in order to get me fired … I WAS teaching school until someone from my home town called the school board and told them that I was a child molester and that I had served time in prison for it. (not true)

I was told to never put any pictures of my kids or grandkids on any of my web pages because “mom will see them and get mad.”

I never get any cards or well wishes from my family for Father’s Day, Christmas, my birthday, etc.

When I sent Christmas presents or birthday cards to the kids, I was told that they made fun of them and called them stupid, cheap and that I should have sent more. Some of the checks were never cashed.

I was told that it was awful for me to live in a house like I live in and that my grandkids were playing on second hand and used musical instruments … they were new when I bought them.

My mail has been tampered my phone has been tapped … my property has been sold for taxes because when the mail was tampered, the tax bill was thrown away and I never got to see it … it was for mineral rights … now that the energy crunch has arrived, we have no chance of ever collecting.

My name has been forged on over $5,000 worth of checks … my music and library was destroyed … even after the courts declared that I should get them …

My life was threatened and I was told that if I ever came back to my home town, I would leave “with a bullet in my head.”

I get bills nearly every week for utilities (electricity, phone, etc.) because someone used my social security number and charged them to me in places where I have never lived or visited.

I once asked my ex wife if there is one thing that she could remember that she hasn’t lied to me about … she didn’t answer.

I tried to get her to tell me of one thing that I ever did that she had not complained about … she complained that I asked her the question … I rest my case on that one.

She always said that I was never the kind of husband she needed.

She charged things to our credit cards and then hid the bills when they came it … ruined our credit.

She hated sex “except for procreation”.

We were married for almost 40 years.

I was a virgin when we married … I was faithful though she was always accusing and spreading those lies to our children … and I remained faithful until one day … I just broke … considered suicide and the same day met someone else … now it’s all my fault …

Samantha July 19, 2008, 10:22 AM

The therapist is wrong when she says that the unfaithful partner still loves his children. If he or she truly loved their children they would put their children’s interests first. You might love your children a little, but you don’t truly LOVE your children if you aren’t faithful to their mom or dad. If you do anything to deliberately jepordize the happiness of your children you’re just a selfish person. So you’re not 100 percent happy? Get over it. You’re willing to make your children miserable. People are so selfish. All marriages have rough spots. Work through it. You made a commitment, now be adult enough to keep it.

O July 19, 2008, 10:33 AM

I have heard Samantha’s “tale” before … from my ex to our children … that “he left US!” … and they have swallowed it … Yes … I made THE committment … the first week we were married, I came in to see her tearing up my albums and pictures … I asked her what she was doing … she replied:

“That life does not exist eny more!”

I lived in Florida for years and once or twice a year there was a “love bug bloom”.

The were everywhere LOVEBUGS … two little insects joined together in a coital union … I had a scientist tell me that they can’t figure out what they eat … all they know is that they join together and the female suckes the male dry until he doesn’t exist enymore …

That sounded all too familiar.

O July 19, 2008, 10:52 AM

Sorry for the typos in the preceding post … was too angry to see what I was typing …

ROUGH SPOTS???? … How would you work this one out?

Have a $500,000.00 life insurance policy taken out on you without your knowledge or permission then have an email forwarded to you that was sent by your wife to a man in another state wanting to have you murdered …????

“Sure honey … it looks bad now but I think we can work through it.”


The Judge July 19, 2008, 12:13 PM

As a former matrimonial litigator, I totally disagree with your psychologist on two points. First, as the women’s movement progressed from the 1970’s when most cheaters were men through the 2000’s when most cheaters were newly liberated women in the workplace. Second, the children should not be lied to even if Mom was at fault. They will learn soon enough that Mom went out to play. In my own case, my ex-wife used her flexible employment in real estate to engage in a series of “matinees” with a number of men that she met through her work. Eventually, she started staying away overnight on a regular basis. That is when I had to file for divorce and cut her out of the family unit. Now, my boys live with me and visit with Mom when she has time.

Pam July 21, 2008, 8:27 AM

I think it best to be honest with children without devulging information they are too young to understand. Why hurt the innocent one?

Alicia July 21, 2008, 10:18 AM

shouldn’t hav cheated and the children deserve to know the truth or else they wil find out anyway.

Karen July 21, 2008, 11:54 AM

I’m afraid I also have to disagree with this therapist. My husband and I divorced because he was having an affair—with another married man. After our divorce, he continued to see the man—still married—and often brought our 9 yr old son along. I consulted with a psychologist on how to best tell my son—I had a real moral issue—not wanting my son to grow up accepting that this behavior was “ok” but not wanting to villify his father either. The pyschologist helped me form a script for telling him. We had a long, open talk about people making mistakes and hurting each other but that not making them totally bad people. My son was grateful to know the truth and still has a good relationship with his father. I’ve spoken to many adults whose parents divorced when they were young who said they wish they’d had this kind of honesty in their situations—their parents divorced and they were never told why. When kids don’t know “why” they come up with their own reasons and it often involves them being at fault, no matter how often their parents tell them it had nothing to do with them.

I grew up in a family that kept lots of secrets to protect each others feelings and I hated it. To me, the truth is always better, as long as it is handled tactfully without a desire for revenge.

JennaEllis July 26, 2008, 7:14 PM

I wouldn’t lie to the kids, just don’t explain EVERY detail until they are old enough to understand. it’s always important to have a positive outlook on things when explaining something like this. Might be hard for the victom, but it needs to be done for the child. When they are older explain that cheating is wrong, and daddy (or mommy) is very sorry for what they did, but daddy (or mommy) still love you VERY much and will still always be there for you whenever you need.

Tiffany July 29, 2008, 9:44 PM

My friend’s sister-in-law is cheating with her husbands half-brother! The sister-in-law (I will call L), destroyed her first marriage by cheating and now L is doing it again! She just got married about 2 or 3 yrs. ago and I can’t believe that she stoop so low as to cheat with her brother-in-law. Yes she does have 3 kids but they are not the current husbands kids. The brother-in-law is just as low as she is because of course it’s his half-brother. My friend doesn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to get involved and nor has she told her own husband who is L’s brother. I feel they are both digging graves for themselves and I’d hate to see the outcome of what will happen when they both get caught. Which should be soon since L is sending naked videos of herself to husbands cellphone and half-brothers cell phone. So I agree with the guys who have posted that it isn’t always the guy who cheats!

Can't believe the terrible "Advice" August 6, 2008, 7:28 PM

What terrible advice. Yes, one should approach the situation in an age appropriate matter. No, one shouldn’t continue deceiving children.
If “Dr. Fox” is licensed, I’d be surprised.

Anonymous August 10, 2008, 5:25 PM

It’s true that there is a double standard concerning men and women cheating. It shouldn’t matter who cheats though. It is wrong either way. It destroys the loyal spouse and the children’s trust in you. It’s not easy but if you are no longer in love say so instead of sneaking around like a coward.

Ted Rasoumoff, MD March 3, 2009, 10:32 PM

My wife cheated with a friend and neighbor who was married and had two kids my two kids played with. I tried for 2 years to work out our marriage. But the lies were good and deep. So honesty had to come out to my kids. They were young. But they knew thier mommy was hanging out with “him” and “he” was ruining our family. I told them their mom is a wonderful person that is not thinking right. And what they are doing is wrong. And “he” is a very bad person. But in todays courts, they want you to NEVER say anything bad about the other parent. But I say “If their mom is doing something wrong or bad (whether an affair or crack cocaine!) you should NOT teach them that it is ok just because it is their mom” You can NOT have your cake and eat it too. I don’t think there is an age that is right for it, but a “time” when the kids recognize something wrong which causes strife and pain and it should not be ignored, or in my opinion more damage can result from a multitude of neglectful teaching examples. Children learn best by the example of a parent. It is always our duty to protect them even if it is hard or unpleasent.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 7:54 PM

Nice post! Good to read. I’ve got a single point to make about tee shirts.

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