If marital discord involves one parent cheating on another, an entire host of issues will arise. Dad having an affair might be unthinkable for some teenagers, so those teens will need plenty of loving support and guidance to get them through this hardship.
Expect anger from the teenager in response to the infidelity, counsels clinical psychologist Ana Nogales in her article titled “How Children are Impacted by Marital Infidelity." The teenager might express the anger readily, begin acting out with negative risk-taking or he might withdraw and refuse to express the anger.
Help the teen understand that the infidelity occurred between the parents and it doesn’t involve children, advises the Rosen law firm in North Carolina. Children often personalize marital issues and feel they have some responsibility for problems between mom and dad.
Remind your teen that even though the cheating parent made a serious mistake , it doesn’t negate or erase the parental love and commitment felt for the teenager.
Anticipate trust issues with the teenager, warns Nogales. The teenager likely won't be able to fully trust the cheating parent, and she'll likely have wider problems trusting others, especially in romantic relationships. The teenager might expect to be betrayed and hurt by a partner in a relationship, believing that she does not deserve a committed relationship.
Understand resentment against the betrayed parent, if it occurs. If the betrayed parent turns to the teenager for support, the teenager will not have the emotional ability to step into this role. Resentment and frustration might ensue. It’s imperative for the betrayed parent to understand that it is unwise to use a teenager as a source of emotional support, cautions psychologist and author Ofer Zur, with the Zur Institute.
Provide the teenager with an open ear to listen and give support. Let the teenager know you will listen without judging or criticizing if the teenager needs to confide and express feelings. If the teenager approaches you, focus your attention and energy in listening and providing support.
Seek professional assistance for your teenager if you notice excessive acting out or unresolved anger. Your teen might need professional help and counseling to resolve feelings of anger, anxiety, hurt, fear, confusion and shame. The goal of the counseling should be to help the teen achieve forgiveness and the ability to move forward.