I'm also dealing with a SA husband. I'm not going to leave it up to chance to see if my kids turn out alright, considering what they had modeled for them (addict & codep). No way. Sometimes the truth hurts. Mom & Dad aren't perfect.
It's a fine line between telling them the truth and alienating them from their father. The thing is, that no matter how bad you feel about him, he is their father and so a part of him is in them. If you make him look too bad to them, they will feel bad about themselves.
They can learn the "truth" about their father in their own way and time.
As far as them turning out like him, you just have to teach them respect for themselves and for women.
My kids know the truth about why we divorced. They did not learn the gory details from me, they have put them together on their own with a little sleuthing that they have done.
If their not getting the truth from you - they may seek it elsewhere. That elsewhere might not be the most healthy place for them to place their trust.
It is a very fine line to walk. Are your kids in counseling? If not they may need a safe place to deal with this.
Should you stand there and rant about everything that your X did? No. THAT can backfire on you and have them mad at you.
Your son asks you a direct question? Refusing to answer is going to get them mad at you that you hid it from them. Then you are the one lying to them.
When my X first walked, I couldn't hide it from my kids, because they woke up in the morning and he was gone. At that point, all I told them was that when you get married you take vows, and you can't break those vows. Daddy broke some of them, and we will be getting divorced.
Last year, my son asked me point blank why we broke up. I asked him, you do know why, don't you? He said, dad had an affair and fooled around on you. I answered yes. I didn't go into details, but I answered him honestly.
I think you should always answer their questions as honestly as possible. You need to be the parent that they know they can count on.
WH says marriage is over: May 15, 2009.
EA#2 July 20, 2009. Legally sep: Aug 16, 2009. DIVORCED!!!! Signed Nov 23, final Dec 24, 2010, adultery listed.
Frankly, the nebulous comment that I had been using repeatedly, "grown-up problems," was only creating anxiety in my kids. They seemed relieved when I told them what had really happened. Now, it made sense. Otherwise, it was just some awful, unknown thing that I couldn't talk about. I'm sure the kids also wondered if we were lying to them about it not being their fault-- this way, they knew for sure that it had nothing to do with them.
I am also glad to finally be dealing with the truth. I didn't like keeping that from them, and honestly, I also didn't like being forced to maintain XWH's image with our kids. He should have copped to his bad behavior right from the start; our IC said that it's better to talk about these issues right now and work on them rather than let them fester until the kids are teenagers or adults. She said that if my XWH doesn't open up a line of communication with the kids and let them talk about the anger and hurt that they feel toward him, he's going to alienate them from him as they get older. That's also why I wanted to tell the truth-- my kids know that they can talk to me, vent their hurt and anger to me, and trust me to be honest with them.
When my POS ran away, I told my DD16 why, that I caught him at another woman's house. From there she started asking questions and I answered. I felt she had the maturity level needed to handle it and I was sick of all the lies. She shared her thoughts with me and she had suspected things before I told her. The info she got from me filled in a lot of the gaps in her mind. She has told me on several occasions how much she appreciated my honesty and willingness to not treat her like she is 5 (she thinks her dad always treats her like she is a little kid with the same mental capacity). She has also said a lot of things make much more sense to her now. I have also made sure all my kids know that just because they know how crappy their dad treated me, I did not expect them to have to choose sides because of it. They are old enough to determine what kind of relationship they have with their father, and I support whatever decision they make. If they are alienated from him it is a consequence of his actions and it is up to him to repair that damage, not me. It feels good not having to cover for him anymore after years of doing just that. My DD still asks occasional questions and I answer honestly.
If you don't tell them, they will come to their own conclusions, which may be wrong, and they will resent you for hiding things from them. However, only you can determine how much details are needed based on their maturity level, but answer any question they have honestly. You will likely find they already know more than you realize...
I have been counseled, in our situation anyway, when one parent wants the D/or caused the D and the kids kind of know anyway that you should be honest, as others have said.
They said it is okay to say "when you are married, you have vows, and Daddy broke those vows and he gave his time and attention to someone else besides Mommy. Because of that, now there are going to be some changes to the family."
As others have said, you aren't supposed to blame, get hysterical, angry, etc- you are still supposed to show them you are a united front and that you "like" eachother.
I wish I was ready to do that. Was going to try and do it Monday, but honestly, I don't think I am yet capable. I want to do it right, as apparently HOW you do it, how you act is way more important than what you say....
I DID NOT ASK FOR THIS SHIT STORM!!!
After ex walked out on us, and left me to tell the kids, I decided to tell them the truth. Not the gory details, but I told them that their dad didn't want to be married to me any more, that he had met someone else. And, since their dad moved in with OW shortly after he left, the kids would have figured it out, anyway.
With my younger one especially, there was anger towards me. Not for telling him about his dad, but because he was mad, and sad, and felt like his life was out of control. Whether he realized it at the time or not, I was the parent he felt safe enough with to be angry.
And I let him. For 2 long years. He wasn't allowed to be rude or disrepectful, but he was allowed to feel what he felt, and that I would love him no matter what.
Personally, I'm an advocate for telling kids the truth, as long as it's age appropriate. For my kids, there have been enough secrets and lies from their dad. I try very hard to be truthful with my kids.
He should have copped to his bad behavior right from the start; our IC said that it's better to talk about these issues right now and work on them rather than let them fester until the kids are teenagers or adults. She said that if my XWH doesn't open up a line of communication with the kids and let them talk about the anger and hurt that they feel toward him, he's going to alienate them from him as they get older. That's also why I wanted to tell the truth-- my kids know that they can talk to me, vent their hurt and anger to me, and trust me to be honest with them.
Because of going thru this and dealing with it honestly and openly, my kids know that I can be trusted. I can tell you they don't feel the same way about their father . I get the real kid, he gets the version they think he wants to see.
He has spent years using smoke and mirrors in his quest to build a truth from lies. Now he is getting the same from the kids.
We always hear the words " you teach people how to treat you." Never more apparent in our relationships with our kids.
I am very careful with the middle child. She had her father on a very high pedestal, and he basically kicked it out from under himself. She is devastated by his behavior. He has lied to her and been caught. She is going through much the same emotions I did when I first found out. Her dad is a shit, but I have scar tissue on my tongue from not speaking THAT particular truth. I spent a lot of time after the divorce wishing my kids could see what an ass he was. I was sick to death of hearing how great dad was, how fun dad was. But when I have to hold my sobbing daughter as she discovers more truth about her father, it is absolutely breaking my heart.
I always said I'd tell my kids the truth, and I do. How I explain it depends on the emotionally maturity of the child involved.
I never told them the exact reason, but a couple years later they figured it out. My son told me he knew why we got divorced, and when I asked what he thought, he said "because Twinkie was dad's girlfriend while you were still married". I about drove off the road.
At that point I didn't lie. I told him that yes, that was true- but I didn't really elaborate except to answer their questions.
As far as kids go- when they're ready to hear the answer, they'll ask. And keep this in mind- only answer the questions they ask- more than that is too much for them.
[This message edited by Eranda at 8:32 AM, August 31st (Saturday)]
Good luck! Find a solution that you are comfortable with and that would be in the best interest of your children.
Honestly, they were so much better mentally and emotionally after I told them than when all the secrets were swirling around.