Regardless of the child's age, infidelity hurts kids, according to clinical psychologist Dr. Ana Nogales, author of “Parents Who Cheat.” Forgiving your father can be difficult, because he has betrayed your trust. It isn’t unusual for kids to distance themselves from the cheating parent, according to “How Infidelity Affects the Kids” in “The Daily Beast.” Take these important steps to forgive your dad.
Accept and Grieve
Acknowledge that your father had an affair and the pain it caused, suggests psychiatrist Dr. Ned Hallowell, M.D., and author of “Dare to Forgive.” Your father’s actions might have ended the marital relationship between your parents or your parents might have separated for a time. It might have caused you to move from your home into a smaller home, due to financial difficulties that occurred because of the divorce. The betrayal probably resulted in anger, shame, guilt, anxiety, confusion and feelings of loss, according to Nogales. Take time to grieve and come to terms with the aftermath of the affair.
Decide to Forgive
Forgiveness is easier if your father expresses honest regret for the affair and works to rebuild the trust lost after the affair. It's harder if your father expresses no regret for his actions. Expecting your father to change so that he can earn your forgiveness isn’t realistic. Decide that you forgive him because it’s best for you and helps you release the pain you carry, suggests licensed social worker Carrie Wrigley in her article for Morning Light Counseling. Forgiveness begins as an act of your will.
Releasing Your Pain
Talk to your father and express your forgiveness. If it helps to talk about the affair or its aftermath to work things out and he is willing to do so, then take that step, says Hallowell. If your father just wants to forget the affair and move on, you can either insist that he listen to you or express your hurt by writing it out or talking to a trusted friend or therapist, suggests Wrigley. Remember that this is for you, not for him, so do what you need to do to release it, such as burning your written account, releasing it in a balloon or shredding it.
Once you have forgiven your father, it doesn’t mean that you have forgotten the affair or that you fully trust him. You could build a new relationship, based on a deeper understanding of your father and an acceptance of his shortcomings. If you feel his actions are toxic, due to repeated affairs or a lack of concern for others, you might limit the amount of time you spend with him or not see him at all. The important factor is to allow joy in your life that isn’t weighed down by the past, writes Wrigley.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.