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Supporting children through infidelity and divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2020 | Family Law

Young Michigan children and preteens are still developing strategies for handling their emotions. When their parents clash with accusations of infidelity, kids frequently internalize their reactions. 

Children bear no responsibility for their parents’ decisions to cheat, but they can suffer guilt and betrayal. The adults must negotiate their path forward and do everything they can to protect their children from their marital fallout. 

American infidelity 

According to a report made by the Institute for Family Studies, 13% of women and 20% of men in the United States claim to have had an extramarital affair. Of those who were unfaithful, 40% eventually divorced the partner they cheated on. 

The more significant issue here is that the infidelity is not just between the adults. Children are very susceptible to unspoken tension. The uncertain future and a high level of emotional stress weakens the family structure, and the kids often suffer as much as their parents. 

Effects on children 

Today’s Parent cited a survey of adults who were young children when their parents dealt with extramarital affairs. Of those questioned, close to 9 in 10 reported general negative feelings like anger. Over three-quarters remember feeling “personally betrayed by the cheating parent.” 

Parents’ efforts to relieve their children’s guilty feelings often aren’t completely convincing. Young kids do not always understand that the parent left behind cannot simply fix the relationship and make everything as it once was. They frequently feel that the parent spending time with a new partner and child does not love them as much anymore. 

Preteens can usually understand the basics of infidelity. Still, they generally do not have the emotional maturity to appreciate the complex nature of an affair. They are more likely to judge and lash out at the unfaithful parent. 

Support in the aftermath states that how parents handle communication with their kids is crucial for their ability to cope. Being honest without being critical of a cheating spouse can be excruciating. Yet, respectful treatment can help children understand that they do not have to take sides. 

Parents should consider presenting a single story to their kids. This could lessen kids’ confusion and show their commitment to fixing their grown-up problems.