When You're Caught in the Act

BY  |  Monday, Jun 28, 2010 12:00pm  |  COMMENTS (15)

girlpeekingthroughdoor.jpgLet’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?
Not that this has happened to me, but I thought it was best to ask Evelyn Shalom who gave Barista Kids some sex education advice back in March.

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:

  1. Talk to your kids
  2. Be a good role model
  3. Keep it simple
  4. 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?


  1. POSTED BY walleroo  |  June 28, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    Any parents who feel the urge should read this — it works better than a cold shower.

  2. POSTED BY Generically named Mike  |  June 28, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

    I walked in on my parents when I was 13 (I’m assuming they thought the movie my friends and I went to see was going to be much longer than it was) and it effectively kept me from being interested in sex through most of high school.
    Thanks for dragging up that memory, Georgette.

  3. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  June 28, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    This advise is worthless– “Explain just a bit more than you think your child can understand.Use correct terminology for body parts.”
    And when the kid goes to school and repeats the “correct terminology” as in, “I saw my daddy putting his penis into my mommy’s vagina while they were making love”?? This is SURE TO GET DYFS involved in your life.
    If not them, then at least one of the highly paid “SAC’s” or School “Counselors.”
    Best bet is to LIE!!
    Isn’t this the site that advocates “hiding veggies”???
    THIS is the best example of it!!

  4. POSTED BY gail  |  June 28, 2010 @ 1:34 pm

    I’m with the prof on this one. Lie, lie, lie.
    When the kids are teens, the DO NOT want to know what you are doing. Just keep it down, for goodness sakes.

  5. POSTED BY KatebirdRex  |  June 28, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    I can’t speak from personal experience on this one, but I think if/when I have little ones living in the house, I’ll keep the volume down unless the kid’s out of the house. I appreciate what this educator is saying, but I think as a young kid I would’ve had a hard time getting scary-sounding screaming/moaning and ‘mommy and daddy are making love’ to compute.
    That said, at least in theory I think that kids should grow up knowing (to an appropriate extent, whatever that means) that their parents have a sexual life together. We all get enough distorted messages about sexuality through everyday exposure to mainstream media–I don’t think it’s necessary to hide the fact that regular, everyday people in loving relationships have sex with each other, and there’s nothing shameful about it.
    People in most Euro countries seem to have a much easier time with all this stuff by approaching it in a more matter-of-fact way. Perhaps we could take a page from their books.

  6. POSTED BY cmeinmontclair  |  June 28, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

    If & when it happens, our options will be —
    1) “oh, mommy & daddy were just play wrestling with each other!”
    2) “daddy was giving me an amazing back massage!”
    3) “daddy was tickling me sooo bad!”
    4) “mommy & daddy play too, you know?!”
    TMI for little kids — it gives me a heart-attack to just think of fessing up all this stuff!
    I remember being shown a medical book from my folks with male/female anatamy (3rd grade I think??) I can handle that —

  7. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  June 28, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    Like soccer and the metric system, no one in America really cares that “in Europe” folks have an easier time with this.
    This ain’t Europe.
    But I have a hard time believing that “Europeans” (nothing like lumping them all together…) make love in front of their young kids.
    If they do, then it’s no wonder so many of them are on the verge of collapse….

  8. POSTED BY Walter Mitty  |  June 28, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    I am not going post much here beyond what I have already said about matters best kept private.
    Just this: Once the itty bitty Mittys get old enough to be disgusted by the thought of their parents doing it, I think I am going to really enjoy telling them about the the time they were little and walked in on us.

  9. POSTED BY KatebirdRex  |  June 28, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

    Oh, silly prof. I’m not sure where you got the idea I think “Europeans” make love in front of their kids.
    I don’t lump all European cultures together, but aside from our friends in the UK, one thing other western European countries have in common is that there is far less shame around nudity and sexuality than there is here. I’m happy to be an American and think we have plenty to be proud of, but there are always things to be learned from other cultures about different ways to do things.
    For example, I think it’s far healthier to allow nudity on network television, public beaches, etc. (as you see in most western Euro countries) than it is to feature lingerie-clad, gyrating seductresses in every other prime-time TV show and billboard, yet retain an attitude that public breast-feeding is somehow ‘dirty’ (as you see here).
    cmeinmontclair, your plan sounds eminently reasonable to me as a way of explaining to little kids.

  10. POSTED BY bitter melon  |  June 28, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    I’m just glad my son is a sound sleeper.

  11. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  June 28, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

    I love how you claim to not lump all Europeans together and then DO JUST THAT.
    Likewise, I have NO idea what your idea of “healthier” means.
    Please explain, and provide some info other than your feelings.
    I’ll wait.

  12. POSTED BY KatebirdRex  |  June 28, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    Gosh, pw! As much as I’d *love* to waste my time searching for data at the demand of some crank on the Internets, I’m finally finished with work and now I’m off to do something fun.
    So…. you’ll have to satisfy yourself with my horrifyingly unsubstantiated ‘feelings.’ Have yourself a swell evening!

  13. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  June 28, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

    The old I’m-so-busy-I-can’t-possibly-back-up-my-dumb-statement-with-you-know-facts excuse.
    Not sure why I expected more from you, but I did.
    And if you think asking for some PROOF or FACTS to back up your statement is being a “crank,” I’ll be that crank.
    Oh, well….. Just as I thought.

  14. POSTED BY KatebirdRex  |  June 29, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    I get paid quite well to research and write all the livelong day. So, no… no time to do research for silly prof, whom I’m half-convinced is some semi-intelligent software designed to automatically generate pointless, argumentative posts here to increase eyeballs on the site.
    If you are actually a human… my goodness, are you ever narcissistic. I believe they have cognitive-behavioral therapy for that now.
    And now I’ve thrice broken my own rule of never responding to anything silly prof writes, because it is inevitably a waste of perfectly good finger strength. Back to the plan!

  15. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  June 29, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

    Me thinks you can’t ignore me because you realize your own mistakes and, well odd statements.
    And once called out (something that doesn’t seem to happen to you because 1) you are either the co-worker no one really likes or whose opinion don’t hold much sway, or worse, 2) the boss no one respects.)
    Either way, your attempt to put this back on me (“I have no time to research,” “silly prof,” “narcissistic,” etc.) only proves my point.
    Finally, someone who would profess to get “paid quite well to research and write all the livelong day” (and who really cares…), yet can’t muster a 5 min. search to back up his or her claim is a walking contradiction.
    Sad that you won’t respond… Not to this but to back up your claims which you’ve yet to do. So— they musta been made up!!
    Just as I thought.

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