A scandal like this can have long-lasting effects on children.
When Governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford admitted yesterday to having an affair, he issued an apology to his wife and sons Marshall, Landon, Bolton, and Blake (whom he left alone on Father's Day to go on this trip). He also apologized to his staff, friends, in-laws, and the people of the state of South Carolina.
Gaining forgiveness from the family is going to be no easy task. His sons are likely reeling from their father's betrayal, says family counselor Rosanne Tobey, LPC. "When a father cheats, he not only cheats on the wife -- he cheats on the whole family," she says.
When she counsels families going through infidelity, Tobey normally advises parents not to tell their children about the affair. But obviously, there is no way that Sanford's sons can be shielded from this devastating news. After all, the entire world knows about their father's indiscretions now. How will this affect them? According to Tobey, "Kids in this situation usually feel embarrassed, ashamed, and betrayed."
Tobey says kids whose fathers cheat usually need a lot of coaching, counseling, and comfort, since their support system at home is compromised. She says children of men who've cheated often experience trust issues in future relationships. "Not every person they meet will be a cheater, obviously, but they think, 'If I can't trust my father, then who can I count on?' As a result, they can have a hard time trusting anybody." Tobey says that with the right amount of counseling and support, it's possible that the core of their relationship can be saved -- but it's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication on everyone's part.