Recently, as I rested in my bedroom, children from the neighbourhood played just near the window. They were discussing a topic that puzzled me and I was forced to listen keenly.
“Your mother has another husband,” a child told the other. He continued, “That man that usually comes to your home when your dad is not around whom you call uncle is actually your mother’s husband,” the child explained to another who sounded puzzled. This very child went ahead and explained to his friend that he overheard his parents talking about the same thing.
The puzzled child replied in shock that what her colleague was saying was a lie and that she was going to find out from the mother. “You are a big liar, the man that comes to my home is my uncle; I’m going to report you to mum,” the child whose parents were being discussed assured her friend with a shaky voice almost at the brink of tears.
These and much worse scenarios are happening today; though a majority of parents would not feel comfortable being associated with infidelity, it is a bitter truth that is happening among couples.
According to Margaret Tumusiime, a relationship counsellor with Girl Talk Uganda, though infidelity is something that no couple would love to discuss, sometimes it is inevitable. She says a majority of couples would not wish to be associated with the act and many will work so hard to keep it from their children.
“I know it is challenging to handle such a topic with children, but it is important to clear the air especially if the children already know what is happening,” she says, adding that it is more upsetting if children keep hearing about the affair from strangers.
“If the children keep hearing such issues from outsiders, their emotions might be affected and they might always fear to discuss with their peers for fear of being mocked,” she explains.
She says though infidelity is an act of obscenity that children should have preferably not learnt about at an early stage; it is more traumatising if they learn about it on their own.
Why couples should open up
According to Ali Male, a counsellor at YMCA, while discussing such matters with the children may be unpleasant, it actually helps to build a more trusting and loving relationship with them in the long run.
“Admitting to an affair will likely cause problems in your relationship with your child but rebuilding and working through the anger your child feels will be easier if you are honest with him or her from the beginning,” he explains. He adds that keeping secrets from family members may essentially rob the family of closeness and create disorientation which can have unexpected effects.
According to Tumusiime, children who learn of such scenarios and the parents say nothing or keep denying may never trust their parents again.
“Children who experience secrecy and lies cannot trust what they are told. In most cases, they become insecure and they do not trust their parents at all,” she says.
She also says that when parents open up to the children about infidelity in most cases it can lead to repentance.
“Of course when you open up to your child about some weird acts that you have been practicing, you need to promise your child some positive traits and in most cases it is the promise of mending whatever you have been doing wrong especially for couples that would wish to stay in their marriages,” she says.