Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Q. I found out my mom’s ex cheated on her while they were still together. My little sibling was even around them when he did it. He has put my mom though enough pain and I don’t think telling her would benefit her in any way. It would just send her into another depression spiral. Am I making the right choice in not telling her?


Mary Jo’s response: How kind you are! Thank you for thinking of your mom’s feelings. Your question shows your maturity. It would be easy to share this knowledge with your mom, especially if you’re angry with her ex. Yet, you are grown up enough to think first before speaking. Thinking critically can be rare. I’m proud of you.

You describe a depression spiral. I think you mean your mom is often depressed. Before we discuss your choices, let’s talk about depression. Please consider sharing her emotional state with a trusted adult. Depression isn’t something to fear. If it were a physical illness, like a broken leg, we would quickly get treatment. Because depression cannot be seen and is a mental challenge, too often it is treated as if it will just “go away.” Depression can be eased. Your mom would benefit from a good counselor. Connect with me and I’ll be happy to give you suggestions.

Weighing pros and cons of revealing secrets isn’t easy. In your situation, it seems you know the possible outcome of telling your mother. You ask me if you’re making the right choice. It appears you’re considering your mom’s emotional state as well as your little sibling’s well-being. Both your mom and your sibling are vulnerable. Your desire to protect them shows your empathy. I agree with guarding your mom as much as possible.

Remember, rumors are not always truth; it does sound as if this information is credible, but I hesitate to share gossip.

There’s a time and place for everything. Perhaps you could share when your mom feels less hurt and when your sibling is older. It would be important to share if your mom’s ex returns to her life and your mom is considering rekindling the relationship.

I’m also troubled by the burden I sense you feel. Are there trusted adults in your extended family with whom you could share?

Relationships are often challenging. We tend to model our own relationships after what we see in our families. Please remember you are a person of true worth. Your mom’s choices aren’t your choices. Continue using your critical thinking to evaluate your own relationships as you grow.

I wish you and your family peace.

Peer Educator response: Yes, you are making the right choice. There’s no point in bringing your mom more pain.

Q. This isn’t really a question, but I know you’ll honor me by printing my words. I’m older now, but during high school my parents split and I was pretty much a mess. You were there, every time I fell apart. One of the messages you gave me, gently and often, was that I was worthy. My parents’ choices were not my own, you’d say. When their divorce got ugly, you listened. When they tried to get me to hate each of them, you heard my pain. I’m in my 30s now, and I have my own family. I married someone wonderful and we have two children. I know I will never put my kids through what my parents did to me. I will teach them they’re worthy. I recently read that you’ve been running the Teen Outreach for 30 years. I’m someone who still remembers your kindness. Thank you for printing this in your column. I know you’d rather not draw attention to yourself, but I really want to witness. You teach so much more than sex! Thank you.

Mary Jo’s response: Thank you for your kind and generous words. I’m proud of you.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email at

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