The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Reader’s story illustrates why kids should be told the truth about a divorce


While I’m away, readers give the advice.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On dealing with unwanted gifts of loud, flashy baby toys:

You know, lots of 4-month-old sons will bounce things off the floor and wall many times. Sooner or later, if it bounces enough, it will quit lighting up and playing songs. After a couple of premature deaths of high-tech and pricey toys, simple bulletproof blocks look very sporty.


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

On protecting kids (too much?) from the details of a divorce:

In my husband’s case, not involving children in the divorce process turned out to be detrimental to the relationship with his children. He chose to take the very high road and not tell his two teenage children the real reason for the divorce: his wife’s long-term affair with a colleague. The divorce was quietly mediated.

It was recently discovered that over the years his ex-wife led their children into believing that he was at fault. She wanted them not to think badly of her and accept their stepfather, the man with whom she had had the affair, in place of their dad. They were finally apprised of the truth but it has not changed their behavior toward their dad. To complicate matters further, it also was disclosed that when we married, I became part of her lies and the “children” were led to believe that I was the cause of the divorce, although I did not become part of his life until well after the fact.

I have silently watched for 14 years, as they emotionally abused him and disrespected me; bringing others into their “little game.” The final straws involved a series of cruelties where their dad was not called nor invited to be part of his first grandson’s birth and homecoming because his ex came in from out-of-state and did not want him around.

He has supported his children emotionally and financially throughout the years; always been there for them. He is a good, kind man and a wonderful father and husband. They have not brought his grandchildren to our home, although they have keys to the house and have always been welcomed. They have not been there for him during his five-year battle with cancer. They have never thanked me for supporting and taking care of them or for being there for their dad in very tough times.

Last year, I discreetly dared to criticize his ex-wife regarding a particularly cruel incident that she consciously precipitated. This resulted in her insistence that I not be allowed to take part in her children’s or grandchildren’s lives, although their father is allowed to babysit when needed. This has caused terrible hurt to their dad, and he now realizes that protecting them by not telling them the truth in the beginning has had painful, long-lasting consequences.

I agree that children should be protected during the emotional devastation that divorce can wreak, but it would be wise to understand the personalities involved and not be naive in the process.


Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at

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