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

“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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There’s a funny (but not suitable for a family venue, I suppose) article on how to explain the Elmo scandal to kids at

Bill Dilworth

Ann Fontaine

How many people are having or have had affairs? One article is here from Forbes and here from MSNBC – seems to be a difficult statistic to find an exact number.


I’m not sure any child who can read the newspapers has no idea what an “affair” is. With a divorce rate over 50% in America, I suspect most children know someone at school whose family is broken by an “affair”. A bad choice, or maybe not.

Also, if the only thing discussed in the “sex talk” was “baby-making…”, then those children were done a huge dis-service by their parents.

Perhaps, even Ms. Rochman has made a faulty choice or two in her life, you know, like cheating or lying, or stealing, (though I’ve missed the stealing part in the Gen. Petraeus discussion), or etc, etc., etc.

Yes, our job is to guide our children in making good decisions now, so when they no longer are with us, they still make wise choices, but I’m also certain the General hasn’t been the only person in the government to have an affair, and part of the reason it’s on the front page of every newspsper, and magazine, and tv news report is that the media love to revel in the carnage.

Lan Green

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