How to Address an Extramarital Affair with Your Children

May 26, 2023
Michaela Madden

Article written by Michaela Madden

Discussing divorce with your children is never easy. When the separation involves an affair, the conversation becomes even more of a challenge. Not only are you breaking the news of your separation to your children, but you’re also sorting through an array of internal feelings. This might include guilt, anger, shame, sadness, betrayal, and more. It may be tempting to prioritize your own feelings, and your first instinct may be to play the blame game between you and your spouse. However, it is essential to make decisions and facilitate discussions that are in the best interests of your kids, regardless of who is at fault for the demise of your relationship.


Today’s article provides guidance on how to talk about a divorce that involves an affair with your children. Keep reading for more on how to approach the conversation based on your child's age and the impact it may have on their emotional well-being. 

An Age-Based Approach:

Whether they’re age 5 or 15, it’s important to talk about your divorce with your children in some capacity. However, keep in mind that children of different ages process divorce in distinct ways. This means you’ll need to determine an age-appropriate approach to the conversation. While it’s ultimately up to you and your co-parent to determine what details of the affair are shared, if any at all, here are some tips for navigating the discussion based on your children’s age. 

Young Children (0-5 years)

You may assume that young children won’t fully comprehend the concept of divorce, but they can definitely sense a change in family dynamics. This is why simple conversation is still necessary here, explaining that you and your spouse will no longer live together but will still love and care for them. They might get emotional, or it’s possible that they still won’t fully grasp what’s going on after the conversation. Either way, it’s best to leave the details of the divorce and the affair out of the discussion with children this young.


Elementary & Pre-Teen (6-12 years)

At this age, children will have a better understanding of relationships. Older children will even likely have knowledge of what an affair entails. If you choose to disclose that an affair was had, be honest yet sensitive in your discussion. Explain that you and your co-parent had difficulties in your marriage. Children this age may also feel a sense of blame for the divorce. This is why it’s essential to emphasize that the affair was a decision made by the adults and not caused by the children's actions. End the conversation by encouraging them to express their emotions, allowing them to ask any questions, and providing reassurance of your love and support.


Teens (13-18 years):

Out of all age groups, teenagers will have the most mature understanding of relationships and affairs. They may experience a range of emotions including anger, confusion, and betrayal, as well as take sides. Regardless of their reaction, approach the conversation with honesty and openness. Acknowledge the affair as a contributing factor to the divorce. Allow them to express their emotions without judgment, even if those emotions are felt toward you. Once you’ve had the conversation, be sure to encourage open communication and provide a sense a stability by keeping up with normal schedules and routines. Know that it will take time for them to fully process their feelings about the situation. They may even act out as a result.


Navigating a divorce comes with challenges. This is especially true when an affair is involved. On top of juggling your many emotions, you must also keep your kids at the forefront of your mind. While you are encouraged to turn to others for support as you deal with this difficult time, it is not in your child's best interest to put them in the middle of your conflict. Remember, you are not alone. You've got this!

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