Waste of Time 101: Explaining Infidelity to Your Kids

Janelle Harris

Talking to kidsThere are a handful of things that will get and keep your children’s attention. Animated stuff. Anything involving exploding vehicles, helicopters crashing, or people sliding across the hoods of cars. Sentences including the words “allowance,” “Nintendo,” “snow day,” or “summer vacation.”

Explaining why Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped out on Maria Shriver seems like it would be slow to pique any normal kids’ interest. You know, in comparison.

So imagine my confusion when I stumbled on some tips offered up on an LA Times blog to help out “a certain type of parent” who may feel compelled to allay their kids’ anxieties about Team Marnold’s tumultuous breakup and the scathing sex scandal at the center of it all. 

When Osama bin Laden was snuffed out, I could definitely understand the need to have a little sit-down with the kiddies. Maybe just an informal chat over dinner to see what they knew about the ongoing saga to capture him and what it meant for the United States as a whole when he was finally caught. That’s heavy stuff, and there was no real guarantee that it was something a teacher in school would’ve felt comfortable discussing.

But I just can’t see a kid asking questions about Arnold and Maria and Mildred “Patty” Baena.

Maybe it’s because I spent so much time with one ear tuned in to grown folks’ conversations when I was a child myself. My cousins and I knew the golden rule: don’t ask because they wouldn’t tell. Plus you opened yourself up to a lecture — or worse — for making it known that you were all up in some adult’s personal affairs.

Rather than risk life and limb, you just picked up all the information you wanted to know while your mom and her friends or aunties or neighbors were in the heat of their chatter. I’d have one ear glued to an episode of The Smurfs and one ear all over the latest gossip about somebody finding an unidentified bra in the cushions of their husband’s Chrysler LeBaron.

The torrid details of a celebrity marriage soured by unfaithfulness seem like they’d be totally uninteresting to a child of any age — unless, of course, they resulted in a Jerry Springer-like battle royale. But if, by some stroke of coincidence, I end up being wrong and your chillun do ask about this whole fiasco, I think there’s something to be said about being completely and totally forthcoming about what’s happening.

The article suggests giving kids a watered down version of the goings-on, depending on their age. But I must disagree (big surprise, right?) Because I never see the benefit of beating around the mulberry bush, particularly since society and the media take turns overloading little ones with TMI.

I’d rather be in control of what my daughter knows out the gate and introduce her to information rather than pussyfoot around the reality of it and have something she runs into out in the world incite more questions that I never tried to answer. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Skylar could care less about this whole melodrama. But I gave her a little pep talk about men, marriage, and not standing for the BS, just in case I was missing a golden parenting opportunity.

Have you used this fiasco to talk to your kids about relationships and marriage? What’s the main lesson you want to impart to them? 


Image via BenedictFrancis/Flickr

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