Telling your teenagers that you and your spouse are divorcing is difficult enough. Even when both parents agree that it’s for the best and there aren’t (many) hard feelings, telling a child (or teenager) is one of the hardest parts of the process under any circumstance. However, if infidelity was involved… the situation just got exponentially more difficult.
The best way to approach the situation is with a united front. That is obviously one of the hardest things to do after one spouse has been unfaithful, but if you both can agree to put it behind you while you approach your children, things will go much easier.
Dr. Wendy Schwartz provides a few tips we’d like to share here:
Keep open dialogue. Be honest about what happened, but don’t go into all the details. This will leave a lasting impact on your teen, so be careful but be straight-forward. This is the time where they may seem themselves, their family and their relationships in a new, more adult-like, light. Family secrets are one of the hardest things to explain to teenagers, but they’ll see right through you if you try to tell them an untrue tale.
Many teens will try to seem like the separation or divorce isn’t affecting them. They may act like they don’t care and try to be uninvolved. But know that they do care and it is affecting them. The common defense mechanism of removing themselves from the situation may be a sign that it is tremendously bothering them. While teens are kids anymore, they’re not adult enough to handle this type of family drama without being scarred. Be persistent in trying to talk it over with them and keeping communication open, loving and honest.
Don’t try to cover it up. If you think they’ll never find out, you’re probably wrong. The affair will negatively affect their lives in some way to som degree, but if you don’t tell them and they find out later on in their lives… the affect will be much worse. They may resent you for lying to them, and their trust issues that will already be present will grow exponentially.
They will (most likely) be able to trust again, but they will probably have trust issues. Be prepared to spend time with them in group therapy. There are many great programs and counselors in Orange County. They might say they don’t need to go, and they may not need it at that moment. But going to therapy may truly help them later on in life after the divorce is finalized and the scars being to set in.