How affairs affect children
Children have no say about what will happen to their family unit once a parent has been discovered having an affair- they are the silent victims. If you take nothing else away from this article, please let it be this; Do not put your children in the middle of your adult issues, it has the potential to damage them for the rest of their lives. I am not some huge Dr. Phil advocate but I do think he has shared some great wisdom over the years when it comes to children and divorce, he has said many times that "When you fight in front of your children it changes who they are." I fully believe that statement, but even if Dr. Phil is wrong, are you willing to take that chance with your most precious gifts? Once you bring children into the world, protecting them should be your first priority. And trust me, if there was ever a time they need protection (emotionally) it would be during this time as it may be one of the greatest upheavals of their life- the possibility of a broken family.
Children often react to a parents infidelity with extreme anxiety, guilt, depression, fear of loss, intense sadness and confusion. They will either close up or act out because they don't understand what is happening. They also often feel it's their fault and they will do anything to right their perceived wrong. This is way to much responsibility to place on a child. Often times the child feels he or she needs to win back the love of the cheating parent while also protecting the hurt feelings of the betrayed parent. This is way to much responsibilty for a child. These feelings are often increased by the amount of information the child is receiving or has overheard during discussions or arguments. It is best that your child not have every little detail of the affair and even better, when possible, that the child not have information of the affair period. It is not their cross to bear! Of course, if a martial separation occurs as a result of the infidelity, the child will need some type of age appropriate explanation, but this does not mean placing blame on the unfaithful spouse. I know it may feel like they don't deserve to not be outed for their wrong-doing but you are doing this for your child, not for your cheating spouse. It's best to adopt this practice now because if your situation leads to divorce you are facing a lot of years where protecting the children emotionally is a must. Children should never have to hear bad things about a parent, they are 50% that parents child and when you bad mouth a parent you are essentially bad mouthing the child (this is how they see it).
This is the "psychology" part of the issue now I want to discuss the "reality" of the issue. And the reality is, that this is an extremely emotional time for a spouse who has just discovered an affair. Your world has pretty much crumbled beneath your feet. You are barely functioning yourself, so how are you supposed to care for your children during this time? All you want to do is crawl into bed, pull the blankets over your head and cry. You are an emotional and physical wreck. You swing back and forth with your emotions; you feel sadness, rage, confusion and all other sorts of conflicting feelings. There are times that you want to hold your children tight and never let go because you feel like it's all you have left. Then there are the times that you wish they weren't around so you can just let go, cry, scream, curse at the tops of your lungs or just feel free to fall apart. It's OK to feel this way, it is all a part of the process. You might not see it now but your children will be the reason you come out stronger on the other side.They need you to be OK so at some point it will "register" that you must face this head on and you must go into survival mode for them. In the meantime don't be too hard on yourself, it's OK to feel what you're feeling, it's a confusing time and our feelings wont always make sense. Now is the time to reach out for help, ask a friend or family member to watch the children from time to time so you can have your "freak-out" moments or some time alone to organize your thoughts. The children need as much normalcy as possible and they need to see that you are strong because if you're OK, then they know that they will be OK as well. No one is expecting you to be a pillar of strength at this time but it's important to take care of yourself and to be the best you possible so your children feel a little more secure in this time of uncertainty. Be good to them and be good to yourself. Things will sort out eventually and no matter what way things go it is important that the children know that they have two parents looking out for their best interests. Make sure they know that none of this is their fault and that both parents will always love them, even if they don't live in the same house. Remember, your children have been blindsided by this and they are confused, make an extra effort to comfort them and help them feel secure. Hug them often.
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