Let’s say the stars align and you and your significant other find a time where you both are not exhausted, you’re both in the mood and you’re finally alone. One thing leads to another and just when things are really heating up, you get caught–by your kid.
Maybe your little one heard you and wanted to know why you sounded like you were crying, or worse, maybe she walked in on you and actually saw you doing the deed. How do you handle it?
Apparently telling your child that you stubbed your toe and were screaming is not the right thing to do according to Evelyn…
Recently, someone posed the following situation to me:
“My first grade child heard my husband and me having sex. She started calling to me and asking if I was OK. She was very upset, thinking I was hurt. I ran to her and lied and told her that I had stubbed my toe. It was the only thing I could think of! Was that the right thing to do?”
The short answer is that no great harm was done, but you missed a valuable opportunity. If a child is asking a question, she deserves a truthful answer. Perhaps the timing was wrong. You were obviously “busy” and maybe the child was already in bed for the night. You simply could have told her that you were fine. You and Daddy were making love. That’s a special kind of touching and closeness that grownups have, and you weren’t hurt at all. If it seems like the child wants to know more, tell her that you can talk about it again tomorrow. That will give you some time to gather your thoughts and your courage.
Just because these conversations may be hard or uncomfortable for some of us doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have them. Establishing honest conversations like these is the way to build trust. It may not seem so important for a first or second grader, but messages about body image, physical affection and intimacy are clearly internalized early. You are also laying the foundation for future critical interactions. You want her to think of you as an “askable” parent. Kids obviously are getting sexual messages from friends, classmates, and the media. Don’t YOU want to be the primary conveyor both of facts and of values to your own child?
Some people believe that a first grader is too young to hear this. In fact, a publication by SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US) reminds us that this is not true. “No child is too young to learn that it feels good to receive and give affection and that loving and trusting relationships are at the heart of joyful, productive lives.”
So, how much should you tell? Explain just a bit more than you think your child can understand.Use correct terminology for body parts. Say a little and wait for the child’s next question or comment. But don’t take her silence as an excuse to stop. At least lay the groundwork for future conversations. Remember, not knowing about sexuality isn’t innocence, it’s ignorance.
Nobody said that being a parent was going to be easy. But this is part of what we need to do to nurture happy, well-adjusted teens and adults. Starting early is much easier and more productive than thinking that sitting a teen down for “the talk” fulfills parental responsibilities in this area.
As I described in a previous Barista Kids article, parents of young children have four important tasks:
- Talk to your kids
- Be a good role model
- Keep it simple
- Get brave
From many years of working with high school students on these issues, I can assure you that kids remember what their parents did or did not teach them about sexuality. And those who were lucky enough to have parents who took deep breaths and really tried to help them understand about sexuality’s place in their lives have been most appreciative!
Good luck as you embark on this important mission.
Evelyn Shalom, with over thirty years of experience as a public school teacher, has a Master’s degree in health education and is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists as a sexuality educator. She has also lived the personal side as a Mom and Grandma. Evelyn now has a parenting consulting practice in Montclair, and is available to work with individuals or small groups on “how to talk to your children about sexuality” and many other issues.
Have you ever been caught by your kids? How did you handle it?