Q: My husband was married to someone before he was married to me. He was very young and soon realized that the marriage was a mistake. Fortunately there were no children involved in the resulting divorce. Several years after his divorce we married and we now have three children, who know nothing about his first marriage. I want to protect our children, but now that our children are older should we tell them about their father’s first marriage or should we continue to keep it a secret?
A: It is human nature to want to protect our children. We want to shelter them from anything that might harm or hurt them, but in doing so we sometimes miss an opportunity to help them learn from our mistakes.
Secrets are best-reserved for- items under the holiday tree or surprise visits from a grandparent. But even these types of secrets are eventually revealed. Keeping a first marriage a secret may lead to an unpleasant reveal and ultimately hurt the very people you are trying to protect.
Talk it over with you husband, but it sounds like your children have reached an age to appreciate that their parents are human and in fact may have made poor choices in their past. Maybe now is the time talk with your children- honestly and openly. At an opportune time, simply state the information and answer any questions with honesty. “Now that you are old enough to understand…” No need to give the first marriage more value than your own by being overly dramatic about the relationship. Open and honest, but don’t drag out the sharing of information.
If your “secret” is revealed before you have the opportunity to control the reveal, you risk losing the trust of your children. Admitting that you are human is not a flaw. It is setting an example for your children- how to move forward happily and successfully after discovering you’ve made a mistake.
Being human is good parenting.