Cheating in
families with children does not merely consist of hiding a lover from the
spouse or telling lies.   When spouses
cheat on each other they actually cheat on the entire family. 


From a
child’s perspective, being a family means the separation and protection of the
kernel that is made up of parents and siblings from the rest of the people out
there by dint of the same surname.    A
child only feels safe and comfortable in a family when he/she knows that
his/her parents accompany each other as a team and keep him/her safe along with
his/her siblings. 


When the child learns that his/her parents cheat on
each other…


When the child finds out that his/her parents secretly get involved with
others outside that kernel, he/she becomes liable to traumatic effects on
different levels depending on his/her age and level of perception.    The child then begins to review the concept
family and his/her place within such system. 
He/she questions once again about who he/she can trust.  He/she may get thrown into an anxious process
while trying to keep control. 


If the child is three year old or younger, you may not tell as to what
extent he/she grasps the act of cheating. 
In young children, the effects of insecurity may manifest themselves
indirectly in his/her life, such as in the form of:  More frequent crying jags, having difficulty
separating from parents, disturbed sleep pattern, bouts of anger, lack of or
increase in appetite. 


In older children, however, the effects become more direct and
apparent.  Shame, anger, insecurity,
anxiety and distress are the feelings that are most intensely experienced by
the child.  It is often observed that
they are given to bursts of anger as much as they are withdrawn to themselves
and limiting interaction with others as a result of their insecurity.   They may try to protect the cheated parent
and thereby choose to assume a responsibility that is reserved for adults.  Or in a completely opposite way, if the
cheating parent has left the house, they may pool all their efforts and
affections into getting him/her back to house. 


What to do?


Speaking about the event on a constant basis, increasing the accusations
and fights within the household results in increasing the worries and
insecurity experienced by the child. 
Cheating is a serious crisis situation on a family’s agenda, and the
healthiest things to pursue in a such crisis situation for the sake of the
children is to keep up appearances without disrupting the daily routines.  


It is highly important that the children are informed that such a
situation is something of a spousal issue between the parents.   Helping the child not to perceive such a
situation as an indication of his/her parents’ abandoning him/her is actually
helping to protect the child’s mental health.  


It is a natural consequence that the cheated parent will have difficulty
dealing with his/her feelings.  He/she
may find it hard to support his/her children under such circumstances.  Receiving help from a specialist during that
period will help everybody cope with the situation much more quickly. 


On the other hand, the cheating parent may also refrain from contacting
his/her children out of shame or guilt by shutting himself/herself
completely.  Such an attitude may cause
the child to feel himself/herself abandoned or have difficulty coping with
his/her feelings for longer periods. 

As a conclusion, in such a crisis situation, admitting the situation as
part of a spousal issue between the parents will help their children deal with
any unfair or hurtful attitude resulting from such a situation and enable them
to support their children much more easily.  


Psych.  Derya Gülterler