Three years ago, I was involved in an adulterous affair. My wife forgave me, and… I cut off all communication with the other woman. I have two children who are ten and four years old. I don’t know if I should tell my children about that period of my life, nor when would be the best time to tell them, nor how to do it. Can you give me some advice?
We are happy to hear that your marriage has been repaired. That is good news for all of you, especially your children. Hopefully you have thought about how the affair began, so that you can avoid a future occurrence. Usually extramarital affairs start with some innocent action or reaction, and then there is a slow progression toward an adulterous relationship. If you can avoid the progression, you will never have an affair again.
Regarding whether or not you should tell your children what you did, there are some general suggestions that we offer for your situation and for similar situations.
The most important factor is the age of the children. Your youngest child was too young at the time of the affair to have noticed anything or to have overheard your conversations. Your oldest child, on the other hand, was seven at the time. He might have heard you arguing with your wife, and he could have heard more than you think. It is very important that we as adults realize that the things our children hear can have serious effects on their current and future lives.
We must always tell the truth, but try our best to present information in a way that is age-appropriate. So, if your child asks questions about things that he has overheard, tell him the truth, but don’t give him any details. For example, when asked, you could reply that you made some very bad decisions a long time ago and you plan to never make those bad decisions again. Keep in mind that, for a child, the most important answers are those that will reassure him that he is safe, that everything in his family is fine, and that he does not need to worry about anything.
When there are older children, it is very difficult to keep confidentiality. Older children see, hear, and sense what is going on. They should be told the truth when they ask questions, but parents should try to keep their children from knowing anything about their conflicts. Children should never be asked or expected to take sides in their parents’ disagreements.
In general, don’t offer any more information than a child asks for. When that child becomes an adult, there may or may not be a reason to tell him about what happened. You are under no obligation for your child to ever know.
God loves your family and wants the best for all of you. That is why He has guidelines to help you make good choices. You can discover those guidelines by reading the Bible and asking God to help you follow His example.
We wish you the best,