When a child asks about an affair

Patricia O'Laughlin, Marriage & Family Therapist, shares advice for parents on how to best respond to your child when he or she asks about you or your spouse's affair
Parenting Tips | What To Tell Your Child If They Ask About An Affair
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When a child asks about an affair

How do you respond to your child if they ask you directly about whether an affair is happening or not depends very much on your child's age. A child under 10 years old doesn't have the cognitive ability to understand something the same way a teenager does. In either case what's important is to not give details about who, when, or how often. These kinds of details harm children under 10 as well as teenagers. If a child under 10 asks you, is mommy or daddy having an affair? It's important to not feel like you have to give them a direct answer. Ask them why they're asking the question. It's very unusual for a child under 10 to suspect something like betrayal. Maybe they've seen something or they're experiencing something that is causing them to question. If you gather more information from your child about why they're asking the question and what they've seen, not only will you know how to address them better, but you will also be able to ensure that appropriate boundaries are being set and that they're not being hurt by the affair. If a teenager asks you, is mommy or daddy having an affair, it is different. Teenagers can suspect affairs. They do know about betrayal. In this case, it's very important to talk to them. And if they suspect an affair, then it's important to validate and say, yes, this is happening. Do not provide details. But validate their experiences. Affairs can be extremely confusing for teenagers. And this can last into adulthood. Giving space for your teenager to talk about what's happening and what you're experiencing allows them to understand how difficult relationships can be problem solved.

Patricia O'Laughlin, Marriage & Family Therapist, shares advice for parents on how to best respond to your child when he or she asks about you or your spouse's affair


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Patricia O'Laughlin, MFT

Psychotherapist & Art Therapist

Patricia O’Laughlin, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Art Therapist, has a private practice in Los Angeles where she specializes in the “psychology of parenting”. Patricia believes that there are specific psychological issues surrounding parenting, and created the phrase “psychology of parenting” to capture these unique experiences. Patricia supports adults from the stages of deciding whether to become a parent through the empty nest. She believes that mindful parenting and conscious parenting are essential components to break intergenerational traumas and patterns. Combining traditional “talk” therapy with art therapy, Patricia facilitates a deeper exploration of the self, helping people uncover unconscious motivations and helping them be “who they are”, rather than whom they think they “should be”. Patricia received her master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and Art Therapy from Loyola Marymount University. She is trained to treat Perinatal Mood Disorders from Postpartum Support International and utilizes Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for physical, sexual, neglectful, and relational traumas. Patricia provides individual and couples counseling to adults, teens, and children. She believes wholeheartedly that the world becomes a more peaceful place when individuals feel more balanced inside. As a therapist she wants to help both women and men find their inner balance, so they can be true to themselves and the people they love.Patricia has been interviewed for Baby Center, The Today Show, Parent City USA, She Knows, Care.com, and Pregnancy Magazine. She writes for numerous websites and parenting blogs, such as The Good Men Project and Howtolearn.com. She was filmed as a “Teen Expert” for About.com. Patricia is a speaker at conferences, schools, and businesses. She is currently a part-time faculty member and teaches art therapy at Otis College of Art and Design.  

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