86 -I found out that one parent is unfaithful, should I tell the other?
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Dear Dr. Smith,

I found out that one of my parents is having an affair, what should I do, should I tell the other parent? This has affected me greatly, how do I cope.

Dear Disenchanted,
My heart goes out to you and your unfortunate discovery. Indeed, it is a painful thing for a child to encounter such apprehension. If you are not careful, it could lead to your lack of trust and faith in your parent, in adults, in the Church if that parent is a religious person and ultimately in God. It could create such a state of disillusionment that you become sleepless, restless, helpless and hopeless. Also it could affect your academic performance and your social integration.
Parents are to be cognizant of these possible consequences that may affect their children as a result of their behavior and should therefore look before they leap.
To be more specific to your question, “what should you do, should you tell?” I have to say, there is no cut and dry “Yes” or “No” to your question. Several factors might develop as a result of your action or none action. Namely:

If you tell:

1.    Physical abuse to a parent may occur.
2.    The family may either experience a divorce or separation.
3.    Family harmony and family togetherness may be strained.
4.    The cheating parent may hate you, spite you or abuse you.
5.    A lot of verbal abuse may be directed towards you.
6.    Depending on your age and the wealth of the family, you may be disinherited.
7.    It may lead to public embarrassment if the guiltless parent exposes it.
8.    The guilty parent may eventually be dis-fellowshipped from his/her community of faith.

If you don’t tell:
1.    The affair may continue for a long time.
2.    A child may be born out of wedlock.
3.    A divorce or separation may be the ultimate consequence.
4.    You may become defiant and disrespectful to that parent.
5.    The guilty parent may increase the behavior, by forming other illicit relationships.
6.    In the event that the affair is discovered, and it is known that you knew about it, you might become the victim of hate, spite, malice and abuse.
7.    The guilty parent may never acknowledge his/her behavior, never repent of it, never ask for forgiveness and never say I am sorry.
8.    Dysfunctional patterns of behavior that exist in one generation can be transmitted to the next generation. In other words, you may feel that adults have a right to their behavior, and when you become and adult, you repeat the negative behavior as well.
9.    The spirituality of the home may be destroyed.

In the light of these pros and cons, let me suggest that you do the following:
1.    Pray about it and ask God to help you and your cheating parent
2.    If you are old enough, confront your parent and let him/her know of your discovery. Be sure that your have proof to show before doing this.
3.    If you are younger, and it’s possible, talk to your grandmother or grandfather of the guilty parent.
4.    If you have an adult brother or sister, talk it over with them and let them take it from there.
5.    Never take the matter outside of the family as a first step.
6.    If you know of a professional counselor, tell your parents you need to see a counselor because your are not feeling well emotionally. Open up to the counselor and ask him/her to help you with this crisis.
7.    If none of the above steps is possible or is not working, you may have to tell the guiltless parent.
8.    If you are forced to take the last step of informing your parent, pray before doing so and after. Ask God for help and ask Him to take away any possible repercussions.

Finally, you asked the question, “how do you cope?”, here are some suggestions:
1.    Pray and ask God for strength to help you and your family through this ordeal.
2.    Never hate your parent for his/her poor choice and bad behavior. Your parent will always be your parent no matter what.
3.    If you are in school, do not allow it to affect your school work. Focus, focus, focus. Keep up with your assignments and pay attention in class.
4.    Don’t allow yourself to get angry, disappointed yes, angry no. Anger will only allow you to loose focus and to harbor bitterness and resentment.
5.    Don’t dwell on the bad behavior of your parent, see the other good parts of him/her, and let that normalize your emotion.
6.    The way you think about a situation will determine the way you feel and sometimes act. Therefore, think positively; focus on your spiritual, educational and possible social life. Bring your best self to these factors and tell yourself that by the grace of God you will not repeat the mistakes of your parent.
You have a long road ahead of you, there is no easy way out, but if you put your hand in the hand of God, He will sustain you and give you the strength cope. Pray and ask God to change the heart of the cheating parent. Also, remember to pray the prayer of St. Francis of Assai, “O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” God bless and stay strong.

Dr. Smith