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Telling the kids and not fucking them up

(45 Posts)
Mosman Mon 25-Mar-13 16:10:34

My eldest not Stbex daughter knows the truth, other two probably do, he is determined that if I paint him as the bad guy he'll tell them stuff about me that lead to his affairs as he sees it.
Mummy and daddy don't love each other any more just isn't plausible in my opinion.
WTF do I agree to before we have the talk with them ?
They are 12,10,8 and 2

Charbon Tue 26-Mar-13 12:22:52

The golden rule in this situation is not to lie.

Ideally, agreeing beforehand what will be said and telling children the news together is best but even then, some honesty is required. Couples often soften this by saying things like: 'Dad has/had another girlfriend and that's not really allowed when you're married' and 'the trust has gone and when it's about something like this, a marriage can't go on' while emphasising all the time that this is something that's happened between the adults and is no reflection of their love for them.

It's also important to answer follow-up questions with some honesty about the feelings associated with the break-up and what led up to it. Admitting to hurt, sadness and even anger is okay because this gives children permission to feel those things too, but there needs to be some accompanying guidance about how to channel those emotions appropriately. So it's okay to say "Yes I am/was angry and sad about it, but I'm talking to a counsellor/friend/my mum about that and hopefully Dad and I can be happy in the future even though we're apart and those feelings will fade" This demonstrates to children that strong emotions are normal, talking about them is helpful and that there is some positivity about the future.

Children are most of all concerned with how the situation will affect them personally - where they'll live, how often will they see the NRP, whether they'll have a second home etc.

In a case like this where it is anticipated that a partner will lie to his children, or threaten to do so, it is even more important that the OP tells no lies herself. But it's possible (and preferable) to tell the truth without demonising and vilifying the other partner.

It's a good thing for children to learn that some behaviours in marriage are intolerable and that forgiveness and new trust are only appropriate if someone has confidence that the same thing could not happen again.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 26-Mar-13 12:07:49

I don't know the background beyond what you have told us here but to quote from a film "What we do in this life echoes in eternity" so how you present the facts to your DCs really will reverberate. Try not to let H orchestrate it, can you agree on a strategy? He is still going to be around them if not you for years to come. They will discuss amongst themselves too so be calm and clear and make sure they know you are always available for hugs and reassurance. They will be less interested in how you and H have come to this point and more absorbed in how it affects them. Where they will live and go to school, who can they tell, where will they spend Christmas/birthdays.

AfricanSue Tue 26-Mar-13 11:57:22

the children will hear at school largely what the parents have told other people.... what goes around gets around.
it sounds like the Exh would like to also keep it quiet and so if you both agree it will be ok.
of course its normal to be angry and upset and need to vent but that's what your mum, best friend, counsellor is there to hear.
not your kids, not the school gate gossips....

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 11:57:08

I'd agree with that. Make a point of not bad mouthing your ex even if/when he bad mouths you. Answer your children's questions truthfully, if you don't know say you don't know. Avoid lying to them though. Admit it is a big deal and will involve changes. They are justified in feeling upset or confused but that you'll be there for them and will work it out with them the best way you can. However much you dislike your ex, he is your children's father and you don't want to damage that relationship. And you won't...he might though and if he does, that is not your fault.

Viviennemary Tue 26-Mar-13 11:52:12

Well I am venting a bit because I've seen others hurt and I know how I would feel if it was me. I agree with children should be told a version of the truth as at the aged of 12 and 10 and even 8 they will hear things at school. And it would be better coming from you. And I don't think hiding the truth in this case from children is good for them especially as they are very likely to find out in any case.

AfricanSue Tue 26-Mar-13 11:44:45

Got to love her... here Chrsitina McGhee a top counsellor for divorcees...
"'It is,' she says, 'all about the children. Putting their needs first. Working out what's good for them. ...parents should separate their feelings from their kids' feelings, and their situations from their kids' situations. It's not appropriate, for example, to say: "He or she left us! Look what they did to us!" You do not want your kids to feel that they have been left. You do not want them to feel that your ex-spouse is hurting them, as well as you. It's not appropriate to bad-mouth the other parent, and by the way, all the signs are that your bad-mouthing will damage your relationship with the child, rather than your ex's relationship. ..Parent alienation is the hot topic in divorce coaching right now - it's where one parent becomes committed to destroying the child's relationship with the other parent ...

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 11:36:00

How does lying protect the innocent here? Lying just leads to more lies.

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 11:33:34

'He'll tell them stuff about me that led to the affair'

I think provided your approach is to try to help the children understand what is happening and to stick to facts rather than your opinion or judgement of their dad then you are doing the right thing. He will tell them things to make himself sound better, to pass the blame onto you, to minimise his actions etc. This is because he has something to hide, that he is ashamed of. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You can tell the truth. Don't start lying to make life easier for him. It won't help the kids, it will confuse them and it will make them less likely to trust what you say in future.

IME the kids just want to know what is going on. If you start denying that it's a big deal, if you put on the stiff upper lip and pretend that you're not angry or upset then they feel completely out of touch and out of control and they feel guilty themselves for being worried and upset. I find the 'mummy and daddy don't love each other' line a bit scary too if it's not as a consequence of something. If the parents can turn off love for each other so easily, with no apparent reason, what's the risk of them doing the same with the kids?

AfricanSue Tue 26-Mar-13 11:25:52

the "cheats should be protected" because that protects the children ... is this so complicated???? is this serious advice or are you just venting here???

Viviennemary Tue 26-Mar-13 11:08:52

I think the older children are old enough to be told a version of the truth. Daddy has decided to go and live with somebody else. And in any case he is the bad guy so he should just deal with it. I don't agree with letting people off the hook with this Mummy and Daddy don't love each other any more. Why should those cheats be protected.

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 11:06:51

It's not confusing to the children to show that there are consequences to your actions as in....Daddy was unpleasant to Mummy and now Mummy is upset. It's only bitterness if you can never move on and let it go years later. Otherwise don't we just teach children that it's ok to treat people in their relationships however the hell they like and it doesn't matter. Everyone is still equally great and loving and well behaved?

Hopingtobehappy Tue 26-Mar-13 11:03:34

Mosman you sound so bitter and that is going to come across to your children and it isnt going to help them at all, it will confuse them and their loyalties will be split.

Children naturally want to please and they will be trying to please you and theuir Dad and they wont know how to do it.

I know it hurts but you really must put your feelings aside for them. I wouldnt recommend leaving him to tell them.

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 11:02:38

My ex and I took the kids out for a chinese meal and broke the news to them as a 'united front'. They knew it was coming because he had already moved out of the house and was already staying with a friend. That worked quite well I suppose as a transition and worked better for 'us' on neutral ground and in a public place so there was no shouting/blame etc. However, that was just the very basics. I told them and then asked if they had questions. They said they didn't.

Since then I have always been truthful with them whenever they asked questions. I have fielded questions for my ex to my ex and never 'guess' what his position on something is. I don't slag him off to the children or criticise him. I do not, though, make excuses for his behaviour then or now, or use euphemisms like 'daddy fell in love' in front of them. It's up to you how you deal with your children. I expect my children to tell the truth, to act with kindness to other people and to be responsible for their actions. I afford them the same courtesy. Some people do prefer to 'protect' their children from the truth and maybe that makes things nicer for them...I don't know...it's up to you really.

meditrina Tue 26-Mar-13 10:57:37

Can you lean the other way?

Your DCs need to know that you both still love them and will do your best by them (you know it's true for you, and I hope it's true enough for him). Telling them together is one small demonstration that you will pull together when there is something important that directly affects the DCs. Also, you'll know exactly what he said. Which may helo in dealing with whatever fallout comes your way.

I would be furious with him for attempting to blackmail you with the threats of telling DCs about the detail of his version of events within the marriage. You need to point out (quite forcefully) that that is never appropriate.

Mosman Tue 26-Mar-13 10:46:35

I'm leaning towards not doing the united front thing that he'd so like to have played out and let him take them on his own and explain, I'll deal with the fall out afterwards - as fucking usual

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 10:36:25

Yes - I agree. The 2 year old won't question anything and will be fine. The older ones are likely to understand more. I'm not into punishment, revenge, anything like that. I think he's made his situation, and needs to take responsibility for how he deals with it. You can't speak on behalf of a partner that you can't trust...you can look after your kids though and be as honest as possible. I'd recommend answering the questions you can answer honestly, try not to use emotive language or slag off your ex. Anything you can't answer for certain yourself say 'I'm sorry I don't know, you'd need to ask your dad about that'.

Hopingtobehappy Tue 26-Mar-13 10:31:25

If he is not leaving for someone else then all the more reason to not bring what has happened into things.

You need to put the children first, as has been pointed out before you will get the 'blame' at some point along the lines, but you will just have to deal with it and be the adult when that happens.

Believe me, when I comfort my sobbing child because he 'feels sorry for Dad living all alone' (he doesnt seem to notice that I live all alone when they are with him LOL) I would love to scream 'well it serves him bloody right!' but I wont ever, because my child doesnt deserve to hear me spout vemin about someone he loves unconditionally.

Mosman Tue 26-Mar-13 10:30:55

The 2 year old is the least of my worries tbh

eatmydust Tue 26-Mar-13 10:30:18

It's really difficult. If you don't tell them the truth (in language they understand) they will find out anyway at school or from extended family. I do know someone this happened too - OW involved but the kids were just told parents were separating- school friends who had found out from their own parents told them.

I also agree with you that he has betrayed them as much as you and the older ones will realise and feel that.

Maybe just something along the lines of 'Mummy and Daddy are splitting up and will not be living together any more' Then follow up with what it means for them - i.e. we are moving to another house etc.

I'd follow up any questions from the older ones honestly.

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 10:29:10

If it's a 2 year old, not much explaining to do. Just say 'daddy lives here now instead of in this house...and you'll see him on Sunday' or whatever. A 2 year old has little understanding of what is normal in a relationship - they just want to be kept safe and preferably know where their next banana is coming from (don't we all...fnarr!). This is a view from a self-confessed pervert, admittedly with problems... but I still prefer truth to lies wink

AfricanSue Tue 26-Mar-13 10:17:30

A child is not an adult. This is a two year old. To soft peddle the truth is not "hiding", its protecting a child.

Also some of the comments here are from MNs who have made very perverted sexualised remarks on other threads and frankly seem to have some problems. MN rules prevents me pointing out who but be careful ...

Lovingfreedom Tue 26-Mar-13 09:56:07

Agree with mosman - the whole 'daddy's fallen in love...' thing minimises what is usually dishonest, unacceptable and unethical behaviour within a family unit, or a marriage/partnership and almost turns daddy into the victim...of that uncontrollable force called love. Why do we feel so much of a need to hide bad behaviour from our children? We can teach our children to forgive...but do we have to cover up when someone in the family, other than them, does something wrong?

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 26-Mar-13 06:32:26

Again... be honest, keeping it baldly factual rather than sensationalist, judgemental or emotional. No references to 'dick sticking', obviously, and avoid ideas of 'falling in love' because that's romantic rubbish and off a small child's radar. However, it's cowardice, not to say unrealistic, to say 'I don't want to be blamed' because, at some stage of the game, we all get blamed for something by our kids, rightly or wrongly. If all you can honestly say is 'we've decided to live apart because we were making each other unhappy'.... that's what you say. But please remember that what hurts most as a child - and you can see this from threads here when parents are accused of re-writing history to suit - is discovering later on that information was deliberately withheld or massaged.

Mosman Mon 25-Mar-13 23:24:01

The other consideration is of I meet somebody else first, highly likely given the circumstances I don't want to be blamed for all this.

Mosman Mon 25-Mar-13 23:20:20

The trouble is daddy hadn't fallen In love with somebody else daddy just wanted to stick his dick in other people whilst mummy carried on looking after him and the kids.
And he has betrayed them as much as me there was no regard for their feelings in all this.

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