Your kid saw you having sex: Now what?
Let’s face it — sharing living quarters with the younger generation can be a libido-killer. By the time they are old enough to stay up past 7 p.m. and get up to use the bathroom at night, chances are you’ll get caught in the act.
Even if they know all about the birds and the bees, seeing a live performance isn’t high on a kid’s wish list. What should you say, and how?
Nothing is less romantic than realizing — in the heat of passion — that there is a little person in your room. One of the hazards of parenting is the almost complete lack of privacy you have as a couple once the kiddos get older. Remodeling and moving the master bedroom to the opposite side of the house is tempting, but it won't solve the problem. Sharing living quarters with anyone — whether it's your kids or your elderly mother — means your passion may become a main attraction.
What do I say?
So you looked at the foot of your bed and saw a little one standing there — what do you say? "First apologize that they (kid or kids) were privy to a situation that was meant to be private between parents," says Dr. Richard Horowitz, parenting coach and author of Family Centered Parenting. This is not the time to make them feel badly for what they witnessed.
"As parents, sometimes our first inclination is to ignore it or freak out," shares Maureen Clancy, LCSW and author of The Super Soothing Companion. "Ignoring it and/or freaking out, however, tells your kids that what they saw was so bad that you can't even talk about it," says Clancy. "This response will likely cause your kids to feel confused and ashamed."
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How much detail?
Reinforce that Mommy and Daddy being physical with each other is one of the ways adults who love each other express that love," adds Horowitz. "This is easier if there have been previous discussions about the nature of sexuality." If it was the teenager who heard you (or walked in), a simple apology is most likely enough.
The level of detail depends in large part on how much about the birds and bees you have already discussed. This is not your springboard into talking about sex for the very first time. Clancy suggests to start by simply finding out what they saw. "For younger kids, say something like 'First I want you to know that you didn't do anything wrong. We were having special time that's meant just for us.' Then ask if they saw anything that was confusing, and answer as honestly as you feel you can, using words that they can understand," Clancy adds.
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This may be the perfect time to start ensuring proper levels of privacy for everyone in the family. Clancy says, "You might say, 'How about we start a new rule in our family. If our doors are closed, how about we knock and ask if we can come in. How does that sound?' Most kids are satisfied with that." This brings home the message that everyone deserves some private time, not just Mom and Dad.
Handled the right way, being caught in the act can lead to honest, open discussion about privacy and mature relationships — but you still may want to add a lock to your bedroom door.