This is a very personal and sensitive topic. Considerations regarding looking after your kids’ mental health need to be front and centre of any discussions on if and how you might pursue ethical non-monogamy. Adopting a risk management approach can help – where you work through each separate possible scenario on how your kids could be affected. You can plan how you could reduce both the probability of each scenario occurring and the severity of the consequences if it does. Having a good open-minded counsellor to bounce options off could help.
Like the rest of us, kids are individuals with different emotional resiliencies and maturities. Strategies may change as kids get older. Just remember, once something is said/witnessed it cannot be unsaid/unwitnessed. And trust and respect are very hard to re-build once they are lost. Kids also worry about whether non-monogamy may cause their parents to split up.
Whilst no child wants to imagine their parents having sex, they may benefit from a subtle heads up … even a “what would you think if..?” conversation. The concept of ‘dating other people’ is usefully mild.
Also we need to think about how open-minded our communities and families are and possible social repercussions for our kids if we choose to come out to everybody. I’d suggest, if you are considering coming out, make sure your kids know first. Even ask them what they think about you coming out (and why you’d like to). Give them time to think about it before responding.
One single mum I know mentioned by way of conversation to her teenage son that: she dates more than one of her friends (both of whom he has met); only sees them when he is staying at his dad’s; and that times with him are sacred mum and son times. They discussed the ethics involved and he walked away with a shrug – apparently accepting this situation.
However another mum-son relationship is currently damaged due to the lad having discovered, and made judgements about, evidence of his mum and step-dad swinging.
A hierarchical triad involving a second woman only play away from the family home but she is welcome at the house as a family friend when the kids are there.
In another scenario, a woman giving a Ted Talk describes her acceptance of ethical non-monogamy as it was just ‘the way things were’ when she grew up with polyamorous parents.