How to NOT Put Your Kids in the Middle After Your Spouse Has an Affair

When infidelity happens in a love relationship or marriage, it’s almost always the person who had the affair may feel guilty and the partner who was “cheated on” probably feels betrayed– both are likely upset and may not know what the next step should be.

If the couple reeling in the aftermath of infidelity have children, the effects may spill over onto them.

No matter how hard the adults try to protect and shield their children from the range of hurtful emotions going on, the kids often unwittingly get put in the middle of the turmoil.

It can be as subtle as careless, judging words about the other adult spoken in front of the children.

It could also be more blatant as one adult “punishes” the other by limiting access to the kids without any reason other than wanting to deny and exclude him or her.

More often than not, putting the kids in the middle of the upset after an affair is not a conscious decision.

Many people become numbed or go into a kind of shock as they bumble along trying to cope with the intense feelings they may be experiencing.  But the last thing anyone in this situation probably wants to do is spread the hurt even more–especially not onto children.

What tears Jan up the most about her husband Craig’s affair is how it will hurt their 4 children. Jan fears that not only will their children be crushed to learn what their father has done, but they will also be given a negative example.

Jan and Craig have always taught their kids to be honest and to keep the promises they’ve made– here is Craig doing neither of those!  Because Jan recently found out about Craig’s infidelity herself, she doesn’t feel ready to allow the kids to know.

He’s staying at his sister’s house for awhile to give Jan some space and she’s starting to run out of excuses to tell the kids why their dad isn’t home. Jan doesn’t like to lie or pretend everything is ok, but she also can’t figure out how to admit this awful truth to them.

Be genuine.

Above all, we encourage you to be genuine and speak with integrity with your children if you are in a similar situation to this one. Of course, there may be age appropriateness issues to consider, but don’t pretend everything is fine when it really isn’t.

If your spouse had an affair-or if you are the one who was unfaithful– decide what you feel comfortable saying that will give your children information without burdening them with details.

Jan realizes that it is time to be genuine with the kids one evening. She sits them all down and explains that their dad broke a promise to her and now she is feeling sad, angry and hurt.  Jan explains that Craig is staying with his sister for awhile and she doesn’t know if they will stay married.

But she does know that their dad loves them and will see them tomorrow evening and many times after that.  She also affirms that this is a challenge that she and Craig face, it does not change the fact that they are a family and that they are loved.

Don’t assume.

Jan thought a lot about and practiced the way she communicated with the kids about Craig’s affair and where their relationship stands at this moment.

At first, she considered telling them how sorry Craig was about his betrayal and why it happened in the first place–information that she suspects but really doesn’t know for sure.  But Jan changed her plan and concentrated on talking with the children mostly about her own feelings and what she knows to be true.

It can be easy to spin the affair and what’s going on right now from the anger and pain you might be feeling.

Try to step back and stay focused on the “facts” as you know them and your own feelings. Don’t assume that you know what your partner is feeling or planning or even what your children might be feeling.

It’s a great idea to direct questions from your children that you cannot answer to your partner. If you can both sit down together with your kids, that’s even better.

If not, do your best to listen and offer information that you feel confident is not solely your perspective or guess.

Stay present.

It’s always a good idea to keep your attention in the here and now. At this time, it’s even more important.

Whether you are helping your kids with homework, talking with them about plans for the weekend, or even listening to them share about a favorite book or tv show, stay present.

Set aside your thoughts, worries and plans that have to do with your relationship, the affair, or anything else. Really listen to what your kids have to say and then interact with them from a place of presence.

When you need time and space to let out intense feelings, take it. It’s ok to arrange a sitter or find activities to occupy your kids while you go into a room alone and cry or even yell.

And it’s also ok for your children to know that you aren’t feeling “as usual.” You can be honest about where you are without dumping it on them.

Keep communicating– especially with your children, but also with your partner if at all possible.

You two are both still caring for, guiding and setting examples for these precious children– even if changes are imminent or happening in your living arrangements.

Perhaps the most powerful positive lesson you can teach your kids is how to be true to where you are during difficult times and still love others.

For how to rebuild trust after it’s been broken, go to

Scroll to Top