“What’s infidelity”: answering children’s questions

Bonnie Rochman writes in Time on what to say to asking kids concerning high profile affairs like Gen. David Petraeus:

For children old enough to read about the news, the inevitable questions will be about what words like “affair” and “infidelity” mean. Even if you’ve had the sex talk, it’s likely that it was pretty focused on straightforward baby-making mechanics, and probably did not include cheating as a caveat to sex.

You hope to teach children that sex equates with love, that when you pledge to treasure someone forever on your wedding day, it’s a vow to be taken seriously.

Rochman then charts the details and reactions surrounding the Petraeus case before returning to what to say to asking kids:

People make mistakes. Even people in prominent positions of leadership. They cheat. They lie. They steal. And when you make mistakes, you have to pay for them. As parents, it’s our job to put that in context for our kids, to explain that Petraeus had a big, important job. He made a bad choice, and now he doesn’t have that job anymore because of his bad judgment. (Paula) Broadwell put months into researching and chronicling Petraeus’ career and his path to success. Now she’s known, wrongly or rightly, as the temptress who led to his downfall. Another faulty choice.

Choices, of course, are part of life. It’s how we teach our kids to make decisions — hopefully the right ones — that will stick with them far beyond any memory of what the word “infidelity” means.

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