Talking to Kids About an Unfaithful and Absent Spouse

Should I tell my kids the truth about why their father doesn't live with us anymore? After becoming involved in an adulterous affair, he left me and moved in with the "other woman." My children are confused because their dad has been lying to them about where he's living and the reasons for our separation. How should I handle their questions?

It’s important to be honest with your kids about what’s going on – as honest as you can be in view of their ages and capacity to understand. If you try to hide the truth from them, you’ll only make the problem worse.

Using age-appropriate language, sit down with your children and tell them that Mommy and Daddy haven’t been getting along, and that Daddy has made some bad choices that are hurting the family. Resist the temptation to badmouth your spouse – you don’t want to alienate him even further from the kids. If they ask about the other woman, give them a straightforward answer and explain that it makes you very sad that their father has moved in with her. Most importantly, reassure them of your love and make it clear that you understand how painful this situation is for them. As you have opportunities, encourage them to be open about their sadness and anger, but don’t allow them to engage in aggressive or destructive behavior. Writing and journaling are good emotional outlets for older kids. Younger children sometimes find it helpful to express their feelings by drawing pictures.

In the meantime, seek out a qualified family therapist who can help you and your kids cope with the fallout of abandonment. Call us. Our Counseling staff here at Focus on the Family can refer you to a licensed Christian counselor in your area.


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