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Parenting: How to talk to kids about Arnold Schwarzenegger's infidelity

The revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with a household staff member can go from shocking to nerve-wracking when your child is sitting beside you. For a certain type of parent, questions abound: Should I turn off the radio or television and try to limit my child's exposure to the sex scandal? Or is it OK to let my kid listen and absorb? Do I use it as the basis to start a conversation? And if I do start a conversation, what should that conversation be about?

Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, director of curriculum and planning for the Youth Programs Department of the Union for Reform Judaism, said if a child is old enough to ask questions about the ex-governor's infidelity, he or she is old enough to hear an honest answer. The answer, however, should reflect a child's age and also relate to the type of question he or she asked. If a 7-year-old asks, "Why is this in the news?" a parent might simply reply, "Arnold made a mistake and hurt his family."

Parents can assume that children in sixth grade and above will understand what is going on and will have questions. Winer identified three types of conversations that this moment in the news cycle might inspire:

1. Talk about monogamy and sex: If you believe that monogamy is the key (or at least one key) to a happy relationship, now is the time to talk about what monogamy means, and the importance of honoring the commitments we make to our boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse.

2. Talk about the importance of forgiveness: Remember, this may not be the first time your kid has heard this type of story. Perhaps a friend or family member has been through a similar experience. This is an opportunity to talk about the types of mistakes people make, the consequences those mistakes can have, and how we can forgive people for their mistakes.

3. Talk about the ugliness of gossip: It's time to discuss how real people are involved in this situation and how hurtful gossip about them can be.

What if, like a colleague of mine, you have a daughter and are wondering how to reassure her that some men are indeed trustworthy? Julie Cederbaum, an assistant professor at USC and an expert in family relationships, suggested reminding your child that this is a case of one person doing something hurtful, and that some people make choices we don't agree with, but that doesn't mean all people are bad.

-- Deborah Netburn


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Photo: Arnold Schwarzenegger with wife Maria Shriver in 2003. Credit: Carlo Allegri / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (78)

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My son ask me why dad he hook up with another chick. And I say son, cause he the man.

This is easy to answer. You don't. Did anyone have to have parenting talks with there kids after Vera Baker and he who shall not be named. No they did not. No one cares. there is lots of other important issues besides this slanderish reporting.

Sorry, remind me how monogamy is key to a happy relationship again? If they hadn't chosen an obsolete moral standard enforced by social conservatives as a pillar of their relationship, they could still enjoy the love for one another that they've shared for decades...

If they're separating because Arnold felt attracted to someone else - the extreme statistical likelihood being that you'll fall in love more than once in your life - then the "mistake that hurt his family" is that they tried to choose a relationship style that goes completely against the way we evolved.

Schwarzenegger vetoed same-sex marriage twice while he was Governor. Just sayin'

It's interesting that the LA Times would publish advice to parents to talk to kids about the ugliness of gossip and then publish the rude tweets of those who would revel in another individual's failures.

How to talk to your kids about this? It's easy really. You tell them that he is a jerk that can't keep his pants zipped up. That he's selfish and dishonest and that after a while Maria will be glad she's without him.

Is this really something you need to talk with your kids about? If they're old enough to find this information out on their own then they've seen much worse in the media.

I wish somebody would explain to me why male politicians seems to have such a problem with monogamy. How can you trust your elected official when his spouse cannot?

Are you serious ? Just stop watching TV. I don't care if Arnold slept around and fathered a bunch of kids... What's wrong with people in this country ?

the bible says that a man can have as many wives as he can afford

Is this really something that parents are concerned with? You've made the choice to have children, and you have no idea how to talk to them about one of the most basic concepts of human social interaction?

You don't. Why do we need to talk to our kids about this? It is just more celebrity gossip. Our children will be better off for not being exposed to this garbage. Shame on you LA Times.

Our culture is loaded with subjects inappropriate for children and the idiot portion is sweating an affair.

The la time should haveyou and who ever okayed this publishing. fired.

Oh, for pity's sake. You'd think this was about 9/11 or a bomb exploding at Disneyland. It's very unpleasant for his family, not traumatic for the population at large. Little kids couldn't care less. Find something else to jabber about.

As a father who regularly commits infidelity and has fathered several secret children, I cannot stress enough how valuable advice like this is for informing your children that this sort of thing is 'ok' to talk about openly.

Great read!

I'm sorry, but can someone explain WHY we need to talk about Schwarzenegger's sex life to our own children? Last time I checked, his marriage and life has nothing to do with mine, or my children. And most could not care less about his personal life. Only adults seem titillated by the gossip.

And so much for protecting the sanctity of marriage...

Mediocre actor, awful governor and dirtbag of a person. He has all the qualifications to be President.

Why on earth would you want to talk to your kids about someone else's indiscretions? Maybe we parents ought to be doing a better job about not allowing so much information to be out there. Turn off that TV during the dinner hour, and quit following every single story put out there. If you ask me, the people in my parents generation did a far better job than we do about protecting kids from dangerous and inappropriate stuff.

"WoW! Look at the rack on that one!"

"Daddy, What's a rack?"

"It's a Country son... keep moving."

Is this considered reporting? A sad state of affairs (and I'm not talking about Arnie and Maria's situation).

I guess I missed the Sesame Street episodes with Arnold as the host!?!?

This one is easy. Why didn't they tell us how to explain to our children that when bankers steal, they don't go to jail like everyone else.

I always turn to the L.A. times when I have a question about life. I mean thinking for myself or using some kind of sense would be just mind boggling to try on my own. Especially when it comes to these topics. Thank You!

Now please tell us how to explain to our kids that the mayor of L.A. is a racist and a bigot who started the racist group mecha with the same principles of La Raza.

"How to talk to kids about Arnold Schwarzenegger's infidelity"

And The L.A. Times is going to tell us how to............?
Give me a break!!

How about telling your kids that he is an idiot and not to be like him?

Easy, children like most of their parents could care less what Arnold and Maria did or did not do.
But if I did have to give a simple explanation it is"Arnold has a long history of being a predator towards women. Enough said.

I've been agonizing all day long about how to explain to my children why someone they've never heard of has cheated on his wife. Thanks L.A. Times!

My kids will not ask about Arnold and I would be surprised if they have ever heard of him. Why would I talk to my kids about him? I think the author puts this guy too high on his pedel stool.

What a ridiculous article.

why on earth would you talk to your kids about Arnold Schwarzenegger's infidelity? I mean, really? why? how does what Arnold Schwarzenegger did effect your family?

I mean, that's taking it too far. Not everything that happens in Hollywood has to effect your kids.

When you make situations like this, about your kids and your family, that's when it will effect them.

Liberals think kids need to be psychoanalyzed for everything. OMG Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie aren't married... lets put our kids into therapy to talk them through it. Give me a flipping break.

Arnold should be prosecuted for his illegal trips to Cuba. Every other US Citizen visiting that 3rd world island has been traumatized by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) aka Gestapo except for Arnold!! When is this idiotic travel ban to Cuba going to be lifted by Obama?!

You have got to be kidding me? Do you think that anyone really gives a you know what as to what Arnold does?? This is what most men and women do even thought they are with another. It is not right but they still do it. Why? who knows. They have been doing it since the beginning of time. It is called freedon of choice. This article is stupid!

Really? One simply says that some people have no moral or ethical boundaries despite their popularity. Then go on to say that this is not the way to live one's life.

Tell the kids that it is Obama's fault for being a kenyan terrorist.

"Well son, even though Mr. Schwarzenegger is a serial groper, steroid abuser, and philanderer, he was elected governor because he is a celebrity who married well and we need to undersand it's just their way".

Arnold is not bound by our human laws, he's a model T2000 from the future.

the truth always works

I just told my kids that I was relieved to find out Arnold wasn't gay.

First off, why would the kid even ask? They probably couldn't care less after you see so many shows on tv that pretty much portray the same thing! Not only that, when we were kids, no one explained anything to us about what was on the news, and we all turned out fine. Kids probably aren't even gonna care....pretty much like the rest of us!!!!!!!!!!

Tell them it's because you have to born in this country to be President.

Why would a child wonder or care about this? Why would it be "nerve-wracking" or "shocking" for a child? Please try to give parenting lessons to someone else. Ive seen this a lot, people saying "how to talk to your kids about the brain matter of the terrorist guy in Bin Laden's compound."....i mean what the...? or "How to talk to your kids about Osama Bil Landen's wives." ...Why would you need to bring this up or any of this up? What is it with this incessant psycho babble.

These are highly complex issues that kinds usually dont understand and dont really care much about....parents bringing them up and insisting on discussing crap like this is pointless at best.

Maybe Maria can take his paramour on a quick ride around Chappaquiddick.

"What if, like a colleague of mine, you have a daughter and are wondering how to reassure her that some men are indeed trustworthy?"

Just tell her that apparently these men all have "relations" with fairies from the magical land of Camelot, because unless the Terminator impregnated a man, there was an woman involved too.

Thank you so much for posting this article. My 3 children were devastated at the news, and have been complete and total wrecks ever since they saw this on TV. My youngest son asked me, "Daddy, did you have kids with another mommy?" My wife was walking by when my son asked that, and the stress was too much for her to bare! She bursted into tears and locked herself in the bathroom for 3 hours at the thought that I could be so immoral.

We've since hired a grief counselor for the children, and my wife and I have entered marriage counseling as well. It's been a horrible horrible ride. I pray that more news like this doesn't break in the near future. We had just barely started picking our lives up after the Tiger Woods scandal. You know I'm not allowed to play golf anymore? Sold my clubs, and even my golf cart -- I just couldn't take the chance that playing golf could turn me into such a monster that was addicted to fornication.

didn't we get this lesson during the clinton years? wasn't it a cigar and a condom? bananas are for first grade,right?

If your kids are too small to understand what happened, then as a parent, you're letting them have access to too much media. Control your kids viewing behavior.

Why do people need to explain this to their kids? Everyone I grew up with didn't have to have everything explained. Made up answers or simply saying "it's a grown up thing, I'll explain it to you when you're older" STILL work just fine. Kids don't have the attention span to ponder on one small incident like that.

Tel dem der marriage hass bean terminated

I think i'll give my kids the old "you have to ignore atheists because they aren't very s m a r t" talk and not worry about arnold.

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