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Children are tuned into the nuances of their parent’s relationships in ways that might be surprising to adults.
I have heard more than once about a 2 or 3 year old becoming alarmed when mommy and daddy aren’t talking and actually trying to physically pull them together, while urgently pleading “daddy talk mommy.” Many betrayed partners, when looking back, can recount exactly when the affair started, even though there wasn’t “disclosure” until much later.
In this post I will address how children are effected by their parent’s affairs.
In subsequent posts I will discuss the effects on adult children of affairs and offer suggestions for parents involved in affairs on how to best support their children through this difficult time.
They can be manipulated into taking sides and vilifying one or the other parent.
In many of these cases, the long-term effects on these children are not considered and the couple may be surprised years down the road at the amount of rage that the child has about what happened and how they were drawn in, and treated as another adult rather than the vulnerable child that they actually were.
There are reactions that occur while the affair is going on, but before it is disclosed, and reactions once an affair has been disclosed.
Before Disclosure If you think back to when you were a child it is easy to remember how much more you knew about what was going on in your family than the adults around you thought you knew.
Other couples are in complete denial that the children are effected at all; since the children are showing a lot of support and understanding.
In fact, children can get pulled in and become the source of comfort for either spouse.
Adolescents continue to develop their capacity for abstract thinking.
They are highly aware that they are preparing to enter the adult world and therefore questions of values become paramount.
These younger children cannot put this into words very easily, but instead usually develop regressive problems such as physical illness, clinging, bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, fire setting, temper tantrums or night terrors – in fact, anything that seems an appropriate response to the fear that the family is about to be wiped out.