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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

BertramBertram Mon 25-Mar-13 16:14:24

Keep it honest & basic. Kids know when they are being lied to and flannelled. They will worry that something else is behind it and this will cause them more upset than being honest.

At 12, 10 & 8 they are old enough to understand affairs. They probably already know. They need now to know who they can trust. Obviously 'you're Dad has been shagging the local bike' may need to be softened to 'Dad has met someone else and we have realised we can no longer make our marriage work'

dingdong75 Mon 25-Mar-13 16:28:54

they really arent old enough to understand affairs and even if they know are desperately hoping that their parents will stay together.
you need to protect them as much as possible.
I was angry/upset etc etc when I divorced 10 years ago but kept it away from my son (By raging to my mum, friends etc) - and I am so grateful I did now and proud that I kept it in the bag as my son is a happy little boy.
"mummy an daddy don't love each other" IS the best way

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 25-Mar-13 16:34:10

I'd go for 'honest'. Age-appropriate and spare them the gory details but if they ask a straight question, answer it best you can even if it means making Dad look bad. A friend opted to shield her DDs from the truth about her exH and the OW and it came back to bite her when they turned him into this much-wronged fantasy figure and her into the awful woman that drove him away..... hmm

Hopingtobehappy Mon 25-Mar-13 16:36:10

Please dont tell the kids about affairs.

Why would you want to paint your ex as the 'bad guy' he has done this to YOU not the kids.

I know it hurts but my exH had affairs and my children will never know about them. Perhaps when they are adults I will discuss it with them, but I will never badmouth him to them, I would never want to ruin their relationship with their Father, that would be very unfair.

What happens in adult relationships is best kept there.

'Mummy and Daddy dont love each other any more, but we both still love you exactly the same and always will' is definitely the way to go if you dont want to fuck them up

Lueji Mon 25-Mar-13 16:47:21

Particularly for the eldest, I think I'd tell them that dad had fallen in love with someone else. That sometimes adults stop loving each other and start loving other people. And that his love for the children was still the same, but mum and dad can't live together anymore.

I think at some point you could admit if you were angry at their dad, but that it's a separate thing from their relationship with their dad.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 25-Mar-13 16:48:13

It's not badmouthing to tell the truth. You can, however, lie by omission. That was the mistake my friend made. Her DDs hit their teens and in the absence of the correct information decided that 'mummy and daddy didn't love each other any more' meant dear old Dad had been the injured party all along ... and they made my friend's life a misery for years.

dingdong75 Mon 25-Mar-13 16:50:38

This is no time for trying to establish whose the injured party.
They are equally likely to reject you when they are older for blaming it on their father.

Fleecyslippers Mon 25-Mar-13 16:56:54

The children deserve to know the truth in an age appropriate way. This situation is horrible for them however it is handled. Children often blame themselves for the break up. Of course he doesn't want to bear any responsibility. The children need to know that they have done nothing wrong and if that means that daddy has to face some shitty realities, then that's tough on him.
Kids aren't stupid and givent hat fact that they will very likely be forced into playing happy families with OW sooner rather than later, they need to at least trust that YOU are honest with them.

Hopingtobehappy Mon 25-Mar-13 16:57:31

I agree with Dingdong

Cogito in your friends case, then the children will eventually realise (if they dont already) that their F has lied to them and that their M was not at fault.

It is very confusing to children about where their loyalties should be, as adults and as parents we shouldnt be burdening them with that responsibility, they should be able to 'love' each parent equally without feeling like they have to be 'on the side' of the injured party.

Obviously this is just my opinion, but it worked for me and my children have a brilliant relationship with their F and I would never want things to be any different.

There is enough time for them to know about affairs when they are adults.

There is a post on another thread ( the one called :-( ) from someone to the OP (who is an 'OW') saying 'a woman like you did that to my F when I was young' would you really want your children to have that sort of hatred and blame when they are grown? thats surely not healthy

Hopingtobehappy Mon 25-Mar-13 16:59:34

Fleecy they wont be 'forced' into playing happy families if they feel comfortable with the situation and nobody makes them feel 'forced' into it.

Would making their F look 'bad' not make them feel bad about enjoying time with him and OW in the future?

Of course its not an ideal situation, but it has happened, surely dealing with it in the best way possible is the best solution for everyone?

Lovingfreedom Mon 25-Mar-13 17:01:18

Just be careful here. I made an agreement with my ex that we wouldn't tell the kids about his infidelity. It made it hard to then explain to the kids why the separation was all happening. Then I found out he and his mum had told them a somewhat minimised version of events...that possibly led the kids to wonder why I would throw daddy out of the house for kissing a lady on the cheek, when we all greet all our friends on a regular basis with significantly more passion and vigour.

I personally think it's dangerous too to speak for your ex with regards who loves the kids and how. I only speak for myself in saying how much I love them. It's really up to their dad to express his own feelings his own way. [And surely, if he loved the kids/family that much he wouldn't put it in jeopardy by having an affair? But that's for him to explain...not me]

dingdong75 Mon 25-Mar-13 17:03:50

BTW Relate have some good advise on this. Look at their pages.

whateverhernameis Mon 25-Mar-13 17:06:14

XH just took DD 4yo into another room and told her that he was going to live somewhere else. I was a crying mess, as it was the second time he was walking out with no prior warning. DD was then crying and very upset and I was in no state to help her.

Now she is nearly 5 and if she asks why XH went to live somewhere else I just say that Mummy and Daddy don't love each other any more, but we both still love her very much.

Just keep it simple, explain more to the older ones if you think they will understand. Don't lay any blame. When they are older you can discuss it in more detail, when they are old enough to understand relationships.

It is better to be honest when they grow up though, as I know of one girl who put her dad on a pedestal and blamed her mum for him going, when in reality he had left for OW. She went to live with him as soon as she turned 16. I think her mum should have told her the truth when she became a teenager.

Lueji Mon 25-Mar-13 17:08:13

Speaking from personal experience, it was difficult to just tell DS that mum and dad didn't love each other anymore.
We walked out of the house in the middle of the day with no clothes or anything else.

Telling DS the truth at the time, and then he witnessed his dad's behaviour, was almost unavoidable.

God knows about how DS has actually been affected, but he doesn't seem to be too much.

Because I was always open about it, not excusing, nor being mad at ex, he can ask questions and we can talk about any issues.

Kids are usually quite wise to these things.
We told our DD (11 at the time) that we just didn't love each other any more.
About 2 months later she said to me 'Mum, why did you really split up?'
I asked her what she thought and she said 'Well he's living with another woman so it's not exactly rocket science is it!?'
She knew he'd cheated on me.
And your Ex sounds 'lovely' by the way. Threatening to use your DC against you if you tell the truth!!!
As if he hasn't done enough damage.

dingdong75 Mon 25-Mar-13 17:12:17

The Exs threats are horrible but he might do it! Then the whole thing will blow up and god knows what he will say about you, your marriage, your family etc etc and where that will end...
Just don't let it degenerate to that level.
Be the adult here and he (probably) will too

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 25-Mar-13 17:41:03

"t is very confusing to children about where their loyalties should be, as adults and as parents we shouldnt be burdening them with that responsibility, they should be able to 'love' each parent equally without feeling like they have to be 'on the side' of the injured party."

Who's asking anyone to take sides? All I'm saying is that by withholding very important information e.g. Dad decided he'd prefer to live with someone else, kids will make up stuff to fill in the gaps.... often incorrectly and often worse than the truth. Yes, my friend's DDs eventually found out the story but that was about five years of resentment that could have been avoided..

Fleecyslippers Mon 25-Mar-13 17:46:49

Nobody has said anything about blaming anyone - I'll repeat - children are NOT stupid.
Mummy and daddy don't love each other anymore. Daddy will be going to live with somebody else which we know is a bit sad but Mummy and daddy both love you very very much and although it's all very difficult, mummy and daddy are going to work very hard to make sure that you are all ok'

Where is the 'blame' in that ? shock

worley Mon 25-Mar-13 17:56:48

if you were the dc would you want your parents to tell you the truth ?
my eldest knows (14) but also reminds me of the law etc re maintenance and knows ex dp is an arse.. he's witnessed too much behaviour to pedestal him.. ds2 (6) worships his father and is forever asking him to come home etc.. he will be told the real reason when he's old enough. but at the moment he doesn't believe the mummy and daddy don't love each other any more.. ex doesn't want him to know what he's done..

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.

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.

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.

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?

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 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

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.

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

The 2 year old is the least of my worries tbh

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.

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'.

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

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.

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.

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 11:06:51

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?

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.

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???

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?

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

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

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 ...

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.

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.

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....

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.

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.

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