Author Topic: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?  (Read 6420 times)

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cookiehappy

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Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« on: January 21, 2013, 03:50:21 PM »
I have to ask this because it will happen in the near future.

Is it okay to tell children in a family WHY mother and father are divorcing?

The scenario is this:  Jan and Dan have been married for 17 years. They have two daughters, ages 13 and 15.  They were a normal family for the most part with both Jan and Dan playing a huge part in the girls’ lives (school plays, ballet lessons, family vacations every summer, sleepovers, doctor appointments, etc).  Jan thought all was well until she found out Dan has been carrying on an affair for at least the past two years with another ballet mom.  And from that, found out that this wasn’t his first affair.  Or his second.

Jan has decided to divorce Dan.  The daughters have been asking questions noticing the mood in the house is strained.  Jan told her daughters very little, only to say “your father and I are having a few issues”.  The 15 year old wants to know more and her questions are becoming more direct like “are you guys getting a divorce”.

Jan will be up front and honest with her girls and tell them about the divorce, but does she tell them WHY they are divorcing?  Should Jan be this open and honest?  She doesn’t know if teens would be able to handle hearing about their dad’s affairs.  Jan prides herself on being a “lay it on the table” mom to her girls so they can (and do) always feel comfortable in talking to her about anything.

What is the etiquette here?  Thanks.

Hmmmmm

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2013, 03:54:26 PM »
I'm not sure there is an etiquette issue here. But I think the best advice is that both parents agree on how much information to share with their daughters on why they are divorcing. I'm pretty darn sure the why will eventually become known to the DD's but I'm not sure the value in telling them right now. 

Salvage3

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2013, 04:15:43 PM »
This early in the proceedings, I honestly think it would be best to go with a pretty generic "Dad and I have differences that we can't iron out and believe it is best for all of us for he and I to get a divorce".  I know that's not great wording, but I am trying to get the thought across. 

I totally agree with PP that husband and wife should agree on how to tell the girls and how much information to share and when.

Judah

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2013, 04:21:18 PM »
This really isn't an etiquette question and the right answer will vary from family to family.
Ask for what you want. Let's be clear on this one:
Subtle hints don't work.
Strong hints don't work.
Really obvious hints don't work.
Just say it!

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Sharnita

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2013, 04:23:32 PM »
I am wondering if his having an affair with another mom might mean this could become the topic of conversation among friends/classmates. While mom shouldn't tell the kids to tarnish theor relationship with dad, hearing it from them seems better than being enlightenened at school or ballet.

sweetonsno

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2013, 04:26:03 PM »
Emphatic no. The reason is always the same: we do not love each other any more/our marriage is not working any more. Unless the kids aren't allowed to see Dad because there was some sort of abuse or substance abuse going on, there is nothing more to say.

While I think this is primarily an ethics issue, I think there are some etiquette issues here because it deals with relationships. From an etiquette standpoint, she is under no obligation to be anything but civil towards Dad as they divorce, work out custody, and make future parenting decisions as a divorced couple.

It would be incredibly rude, I think, to tell the daughters something without Dad's okay. He may be a bad husband, but he's still their dad. Additionally, blaming Dad for the divorce and making him out to be the bad guy isn't all that polite, either. It puts the daughters in an uncomfortable position. They don't need to feel like they have to take sides. They don't need to worry that if continuing to love their Dad means that they are betraying their mom.

No, no, no.

TurtleDove

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2013, 04:29:09 PM »
I don't think this is really an etiquette question, but given the ages of the children I would tell them the why.  I would have both parents sit down with them and give a bare bones snapshot.  Given the nature of the affair and the likelihood this will be a topic of gossip, I think it is only fair that the children have some idea what is happening.  I also think that if Dan is embarrassed about his affairs and does not want his children to think poorly of him, he should have thought about that before cheating on their mother.  If he is unashamed, this should not be a problem for him either.  I strongly believe in the importance of teaching teens and young adults the real life consequences of infidelity.

nuit93

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2013, 04:36:29 PM »
I'd be concerned that the kids are hearing rumors about their dad.  Perhaps it would be good to at least let them know that they can come to you with questions?

delabela

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2013, 04:44:13 PM »
While I can certainly sympathize with Jan's position, and I think it's rotten she's been put in this place, it strikes me as entirely inappropriate to discuss the specifics with the kids.

TurtleDove

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2013, 04:56:45 PM »
While I can certainly sympathize with Jan's position, and I think it's rotten she's been put in this place, it strikes me as entirely inappropriate to discuss the specifics with the kids.

I agree that specifics should not be discussed, but a sitdown with Jan, Dan and the children explaining a bare bones snapshot of what Dan did and with whom and what the consequences are makes sense.  My BF was faced with this situation when his now ex-wife cheated on him and left him for her boss, and then married the boss and had two more children with him.  They did not tell their children (then aged 9, 13 and 14) why they were getting divorced.  Fast forward 8 years and the kids found out perhaps a year ago.  They never liked their stepdad, but they were upset that their parents did not tell them, and they told my BF they wish they would have understood because it would have made a lot more sense to them why their family was no more.

miranova

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2013, 04:57:35 PM »
This is really, REALLY difficult.  It makes me so angry that the children, and Jan, are in this position.  On the one hand, of course it would be great if they could say "we have issues that we can't work out" and leave it at that.  But.  Kids aren't stupid.  My parents started their divorce when I was 14.  I knew the specifics, even though they didn't tell me flat out.  There was NO WAY they could have kept it from me forever.

The bottom line is that an affair does not affect only the spouse, it WILL affect the children, and Dan can't be spared the consequence of having his children be VERY UPSET at him for betraying their mom.  Of course the children are going to find out and be upset.  They have every right to be upset or "blame" their dad.  That's their choice to see it that way, and Dan can't be immune from that.  Affairs hurt people, even children!  I'm not saying Jan should tell them "your dad is having an affair" but I don't really think she's going to be able to shield them from it either, and I don't think she has a repsonsibility to lie to them about it when they inevitably find out.  Dan's relationship with his children can heal, but not before he takes some responsibility and admits wrongdoing and even apologizes to his children.  I don't see any easy out for Dan, he can't have multiple affairs yet still expect his children to respect him.  It just doesn't work that way.

Deetee

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2013, 05:04:53 PM »
Nope. You don't them the why.

Because of many reasons, but also because "X is having an affair" does not lead with black and white certainty to divorce and also does not mean that is the only problem in a marriage. There are many reasons that people have affairs. None of them are good reasons, but they aren't as simple as Bad Spouse/Good Spouse.

If she thinks there may be gossip she can let them know that they can ask her any specific questions.

It is also crucial to remember that someone can be a terrible wife or husband but still be an excellent parent and kids need to love their parents (unless they are truely dreadful parents)

TurtleDove

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2013, 05:09:14 PM »
It is also crucial to remember that someone can be a terrible wife or husband but still be an excellent parent and kids need to love their parents (unless they are truely dreadful parents)

As another poster pointed out, kids are not stupid.  Kids need to be able to trust and respect their parents too.  I believe Dan has some work to do to earn back the trust and respect of his children.

Deetee

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2013, 05:38:45 PM »
It is also crucial to remember that someone can be a terrible wife or husband but still be an excellent parent and kids need to love their parents (unless they are truely dreadful parents)

As another poster pointed out, kids are not stupid.  Kids need to be able to trust and respect their parents too.  I believe Dan has some work to do to earn back the trust and respect of his children.

I'm not saying the kids won't make their own judgements, but I don't see why they would need to be told (and most definately not at the beginning). I just think that it important to realise that the qualities that make one a good parent aren't the same as a good spouse.

I think of my own parents who are divorced. As far as I know there was no issues with cheating. But I also know my dad had some terrible qualities as a husband (always taking spontaneous trips, never staying in a job, tonnes of big dreams, very little follow up etc...) that made him a wonderful father who told fantastic stories and took me on amazing trips. Life with him was unstable and interesting and I was more comfortable at "home", but I had more adventures with my dad.

SiotehCat

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Re: Tell Them The What. But Do You Tell Them The Why?
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2013, 05:46:48 PM »
My answer is all over the place. What I would do and what I would want for myself are different.

As a mother, I wouldn't tell my DS why his dad and I are no longer together.

His dad had a drinking problem that made him all kinds of abusive. We were young when we had DS and it must have been stressful for his father. We haven't been together now and his dad is a much different person. People change and I would never want him to know what I know about his father.

As a daughter, thats different. I was very angry that my parents werent honest with me. I was old enough to understand.