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The Daily Dish The Real Housewives of Orange County

How Can You Stay Strong and Be a Good Parent When Faced with Marital Difficulties?

Meghan King Edmonds is struggling following her husband's cheating scandal.

By Marianne Garvey
Meghan King Edmonds, Jim Edmonds, kids

Meghan King Edmonds recently addressed the cheating allegations involving her husbandJim Edmonds, on her blog, saying she "sobs so much my face stings from the salt from my tears."

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"I am exhausted," she wrote. "My poor kids aren’t getting their devoted mother. And it’s only been 36 hours."

On top of her husband's infidelity, The Real Housewives of Orange County mom revealed one of her twin sons, Hart, may have a neurological disorder.

"And all of this could not have come at a worse time. Again, something I wasn’t ready to share but here I am sharing it: we are worried our son, Hart, might have a neurological disorder. It’s been the most trying last couple months of my entire life and we still don’t have answers," she said about her 1-year-old son. "Sometimes I leave the house after the kids go to bed so I can drive around and ugly cry in the dark with no one around. Now I have this to deal with: my one true love betraying me in the most disgusting and public way possible."

How can you possibly maintain your sanity and be a good mom when your marriage is in trouble and you're dealing with extra stress like a child's health issues?

Therapist Tanya Koifman LCSW, talked to Personal Space about Edmonds' situation and offers some advice for those in a similar space. 

"When dealing with issues in a relationship (including infidelity), it is very important to handle the situation in a very thoughtful way when kids are involved; it is also crucial for both parents to be on the same page. How parents handle this has a direct effect on their kids’ mental and emotional well-being, as well as their understanding of how to navigate their own relationships," Koifman said. "Kids and teens learn by observing relationships around them, how to effectively or ineffectively manage conflict and various situations that come up."

Koifman said when kids and teens observe their parents engaging in hostility and conflict with each other, it "messes with their sense of safety and security."

"Being raised in a high conflict home can increase kids’ chances of anxiety, depression, and a lowered sense of self-worth," she explained. "Kids often internalize what is happening around them and have a tendency to blame themselves for their parents' conflict and unhappiness. Kids pick up how their parents are feeling and relating to one another. They notice body language, tone of voice, when one or both of their parents are spending more time out of the home, when one or both parents are ignoring or not speaking with the other. Very young children can also pick up on when things are not feeling quite right, even if they do not yet understand the specifics."   

It is extremely important to model healthy dynamics, even in difficult times.

"If kids, for example, tell their parents that they noticed that they have been arguing, not getting along, being disrespectful to each other, it is the automatic reaction of some parents to tell the kids that it is not true, that everything is just fine, in an effort to protect their kids," Koifman added. "This kind of response is actually an example of gaslighting, and it is pretty much telling your kids that what they clearly have been hearing and observing is not real. This creates a sense of mistrust and confusion for kids, and they can begin to not trust their own observations, which is of course not healthy and potentially quite harmful."

What is important to emphasize is that both parents are going to continue being there for their kids, while navigating through their issues as a couple.

"It is important to display this with everyday actions in addition to words. The promises of being there for them (kids) need to be continually followed up on, as kids often fear abandonment and will need a lot of reassurance," Koifman said, adding, "It is very important to avoid making accusations or saying negative things about the other parent, as this ends up being very emotionally hurtful for the child."

As for the infidelity, kids don't need to be told the specifics. 

"Healthy boundaries are crucial. But it is important to acknowledge and be ready to discuss the tension (among other things) that they may be sensing and observing. Parents can acknowledge that they may be going through some difficulties in their relationship and that they are working on resolving it in a healthy way; and that it is their (the parents’) responsibility to work through it as adults; while continuing to be present for their kids," Koifman said. "If older kids/teens ask questions about a parent’s infidelity, it can understandably feel awkward or embarrassing; but there are ways to answer them in an open and honest way, while also having appropriate boundaries and not over-sharing."

Remember, she says, children are watching their parents very carefully and really taking in their every move, especially during uncertain or difficult times.

"Dealing with major issues in a relationship such as infidelity can zap any person’s energy reserve, and they can feel like they are physically and emotionally running on empty," Koifman concluded. "It is important that parents in this situation practice self-care as much as possible, and reach out for support. It is crucial to do whatever is needed to ensure that there is still ample time and energy left for kids."

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