Kids Pick Up Our Attitudes About Sex

'' photo (c) 2011, Katie Tegtmeyer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I know I talk about sex a lot. I guess it’s kinda become my niche. But here’s the great thing about a great sex life: it doesn’t just benefit you and your husband. It benefits your kids, too.

The thought of one’s parents having sex is supposed to send every child into spasms of retching. But I think every kid, even if they’re grossed out, will be secretly happy that their parents actually like each other enough to still want to do that.

So we owe it to our kids to have great sex lives with our husbands! After all, let’s face it: the vast majority of messages that kids hear about sex are something like:  “Don’t even think about it!” As I researched my new book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I came across woman after woman who relayed something like this:

Sex was never talked about in my home except to say “don’t do it”. I spent my whole pre-married life avoiding sex and trying so hard not to think about it. It was something bad. Then I got married and the switch was really hard to make. I’m still very embarrassed about sex in general.

Every youth rally I’ve ever been to included a talk on purity. Parents are worried about purity. Pastors are worried about purity. But if we’re not giving kids the other side of the equation–that when you do make love in a committed relationship, it is AWESOME!–then they can easily develop almost an abhorrence of sex.

How do you make sex into something positive?

1. Smooch Every Chance You Get

Kiss your hubby–in front of the kids! My daughters’ friend Kaila once confessed that she was always a little worried about walking into our kitchen in case “Mr. and Mrs. Gregoire were making out in there.” My girls laughed along, but I know they took it as a badge of honor. Their parents loved each other, and that gives them an amazing sense of security. Mom and Dad still are hot for each other. It’s great modeling. (And if you’re not really a touchy person, read this.)

2. Talk About Sex as Something Positive

Spend time with your teens talking any chance you can get. You can’t force a teen to talk, but you can create low-stress environments where conversation is more likely. Many parents find their best conversations are in the car, when you’re playing chauffeur. Or perhaps take walks after dinner, or head out to Dairy Queen.

We’ve created these opportunities to let the kids vent about mistakes they see friends making. Perhaps not surprisingly, sex does come up in conversation quite a bit. And I’ve been giving them the message, over and over, that sex in the back seat of someone’s car will never feel as wonderful as it does when you’re married, you’re committed to one another, and you’re safe and cherished.

Perhaps you’re also giving your children the message “Wait–because it’s worth it!” That’s good. That’s better than just “don’t do it!” But unless that “wait, because it’s worth it” is accompanied by actual evidence that it is worth it, your kids may start to believe the culture that tells them how great sex is now, rather than your parents who say the words but don’t walk the walk. So while talking is beneficial, it needs to be accompanied by this scary attitude shift:

3. Don’t Keep it a Secret that You Have Sex

We try to be quiet as mice. We purchase WD-40 by the case to make sure the bed doesn’t squeak. But honestly, if your child happens to know what’s going on behind that closed door, is that really such a horrible thing?

One friend confided in me about an episode one night when she and her husband were enjoying quite a vigorous time–and we’ll leave it at that. But when the action was over, and they were snuggling, they heard their daughter Vanessa’s music way too loud. Sean got his pants back on, stepped out in the hallway, and bellowed, “Vanessa, how many times do we have to tell you to keep your music down?” She bellowed back, “Dad, it’s this loud for a reason! Like, ICK!”

For many of us, that would be mortifying–to be caught by your own kids. Yet why is that? If sex is beautiful in a marriage, and is a good thing, then if the kids happen to suspect what’s going on, that should not be a cause for concern. It should just be more evidence that marriage is good–and sex can be great within marriage.

I’m certainly not saying you should advertise it to your kids. I’m not saying you should make a big production out of it–“Well, girls, Daddy and I are going upstairs now”, wink wink. But at some point kids will get to the age where they’ll start to suspect, and likely start to catch on. That doesn’t mean you have to double down and become even more secretive. It just means that you should act normally, and they may just learn the truth. And that’s okay.

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I heard of one couple who told their teenage children, “On Friday nights, you probably want to be out of the house.” And then they added, “And be in your rooms by 9:30 with the door closed. It’s for your own good.” The kids got the message. And everyone was fine with it.

Nevertheless, when I was researching my book, one of my saddest findings was that about 40% of married couples make love less than once a week. Once kids come, sex goes.

Ladies, I think we have it backwards. When we’re moms, we need sex just for relaxation and to help us sleep better. We need to reconnect with our husbands. And we need to give our kids a great example that sex is something positive. So stop fretting over your kids finding out about your sex life, and start praying that they secretly may!

What do you think? Can you make that attitude shift? Or is that just too hard? Let me know!

Comments

  1. Too bad my dad didn’t read this when I was growing up. He refused to have a lock on his bedroom door and he never wanted us to know they had sex so they had it very seldom my mom told me. My husband is completely opposite…lock on the door and who cares if the bed sqeaks!
    Lori recently posted…The Family BedMy Profile

  2. I love this, Sheila! Kids are indeed often embarrassed by parents smooching, but you can tell that they feel secure in that environment too. They enjoy knowing that their parents are still hot for each other. I do worry at times about being heard, but I guess if they hear me yell “Oh yes!” they’ll just know their dad is a great lover as well as a great husband and father.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…He Doesn’t Wanna, But I Do! Help for Higher Drive WivesMy Profile

  3. “We purchase WD-40 by the case to make sure the bed doesn’t squeak. ”

    “Dad, it’s this loud for a reason! Like, ICK!”

    LOL

    Great post Sheila!! I am off to read the post that you linked to “(And if you’re not really a touchy person, read this.)”

    …Lisa

  4. Hee Hee, good insight! My husband and I talk in innuendo, but mainly because it’s fun and flirty for us, because our kids are too young to understand. Also, not only does our door not have a lock on it, it doesn’t even close all of the way because the door was not fixed to accommodate the carpet in the hallway. We know that it’s only a matter of time before we get walked in on unless we fix the door. If we are heading for a quickie when the kids are still awake, we just go in the bathroom where the door does close and lock ;)
    Megan Elzey recently posted…Wisdom, Insight, and UnderstandingMy Profile

  5. Great post, Sheila. I had a talk about this with a friend last night… I was putting my thoughts together for a post about talking to our kids about sex when I read your post. Thanks for the reminder that it’s ok for our kids “to know.” :)
    Nicole G recently posted…Kids and SexMy Profile

  6. AMEN! Seriously! We are pretty non secretive about sex. We smooch in front of the kids. He pats my butt in front of the kids. they roll their eyes, but I also see a sparkle there. They KNOW their parents love each other and there is so much security in that knowledge.

    Funny story. One time my husband shut the door, but didn’t lock it. Apparently he didn’t shut it all the way, because right when it was getting really good, the door flung wide open and in walked the cat. “MEOW”. Lol
    Amy recently posted…A Breath of Fresh AirMy Profile

  7. Gorgeous George says:

    Amen, Sheila! If we want our kids to save themselves for marriage, modeling healthy affection after marriage is key!

  8. Brittney says:

    It’s interesting that you posted about this today. My husband and I were staying with his parents this past weekend. He needed to borrow something from his dad, so he went into his parents’ bedroom with his father. When he got what he needed, he came to me and told me that he saw some items used for sexual play in the drawer. I giggled (like a 12 year old) but then my husband said, “You know, even though this seems like something I should be grossed out by, I’m not. How many people who have been married as long as they have still love each other as much as they do? I’m glad they still have sex!” I laughed and told him that sex was good for married people so his reaction was completely appropriate. I definitely agree with you about this topic, although I don’t have kids yet. Good post!

  9. ROFL! This reminds me of a story from when my daughter was 7:

    [quote]Oh, dear. The following conversation took place this morning. We went to the local trade-in used book store, and they were late opening so we were hanging out on the sidewalk. DH and I snuggled for a minute at one point, and kissed before he moseyed on away again. I turned around to Erin, who had this to say:

    “I hate it when you and Daddy kiss!”

    “Why?”

    “Because it’s gross!”

    “But it means that Daddy and I are in looooove. Don’t you want Daddy and me to be in looooove?”

    (Look of indignance at this) “No. I want you to be married!”[/quote]

    Hopefully her attitude has improved in this area – at least she doesn’t complain anymore!

    • Melanie, that’s so cute! I really wish there were like buttons for comments here, like on Facebook!

      • I found another one from two years later!

        Friday, DH called me on the way home from work, and we were chatting a bit. Sean informed me that Erin told him the following while we were on the phone:

        “Mom sounds like she’s got a new boyfriend or something!”
        “She’s all giggly on the phone!”
        “They’re acting like they’re not even married!”

        Accompianed, no doubt, by very expressive hand motions and rolled eyes. :-D

  10. I think it also shows kids what they should NOT be doing yet, if that even makes sense. I mean, we aren’t going to have sex in front of our child, but we certainly kiss plenty. She knows that’s a grownup kiss for married people! Only grown-ups kiss like that-never kids. I think you get where I am going with this.

    Well, the other day my daughter came home from school and told me(she is in JK) that one of her “boy friends”(we’ve told her no boyfriends, but she just means male friends) kissed her at school. I giggled and said, “none of that. we don’t want to give each other ours germs!” and she said, “No mommy, I mean he kissed me like a married kiss. You know, the way daddy kisses you. But don’t worry mommy, I told him that’s only for married grownups, not for kids.” She then went on to tell me that he insisted to her that it’s for boyfriends and girlfriends and that kids CAN be that and that she HAD to kiss him. Her response(sorry, it’s a little violent), “Are your listening ears not working? We are not married. Kids don’t kiss like moms and dads! I told you NO! I am not going to kiss you like mommy kisses daddy!”

    If we only ever gave the occasional peck on the check, she would never know the difference between a grownup kiss and an innocent peck between two kids :)

    • That’s precious, Rachel! Good for her!

    • Wow, bless her heart! And good for her to speak up for herself like that!

    • Thank you Rachel for sharing this. This happened with my daughter just recently. She’s 6 and a little boy about the same age told her that he loved her while some moms were around and then kissed her (quickly, but on the lips) out on the playground a bit later on. I was across the field so I wasn’t sure what I saw at first. The little boy told his mom right away that he had done it and everyone thought it was cute. On the way home, I asked my daughter if her friend had kissed her on the lips and she said yes. I then asked her what she thought about that and she said she was surprised. I told her that if she didn’t want someone to kiss her like that, then she should absolutely tell them no.

      I wanted to convey to her that however she felt about it was ok, but it’s not ok to do it so next time she should tell the boy to back off, but I didn’t take it that far because I didn’t have the words (the whole thing blindsided me a bit). I was second guessing myself because it’s not like he was trying to French kiss her or anything, and isn’t she a bit young for a whole purity discussion? She didn’t actually do anything – he just kissed her before she knew what was happening. I grew up in a house full of negative messages about sex and I really don’t want that for my kids. However, I don’t want to go the other way and give the message that everything is ok either. I definitely believe sex is for marriage only.

      I am sure we will see this little boy again. So, before we see him next time, should I bring it up with my daughter and tell her to tell him not to kiss her if he tries? Or, should I just drop it because it wasn’t that big of a deal? I really didn’t think I’d have to deal with this for a while. She’s only 6! We homeschool so she’s protected from a lot of media images, etc. and yet here we are.

      • I let her know that kissing like that is for grownups and that if someone tries to kiss her like that, she should tell them so. Don’t make her feel too bad about it, though. She didn’t do the kissing and as you say, it happened really fast. Maybe have the germs talk with her, too lol. We tell our daughter that we don’t kiss our friends on the lips because there are a lot of germs on our mouths and we wouldn’t want to get sick. My daughter is very loud about her opinions. I was proud of her for knowing that she can say “no”, but honestly shocked about just how clear she was about things. haha

      • You may want to talk to the mother of the little boy in question to have her explain to him that kissing on the mouth is for married people (and that you don’t want him to do that to your daughter). If you know the mother well enough, that is what I would do.

        But in any case, tell your daughter that kissing should be reserved for when she is grown up and married. She’s too young for that now. If anyone wants to kiss her now, she should say no.

        You HAVE to tell children how to set boundaries…from an early age. Six is plenty old enough to understand that we don’t let other people see certain parts of our bodies or touch us in certain ways. They need to know what is and isn’t appropriate for other people to do to them (touching, kissing, etc). They need to know that when someone does something inappropriate, they should tell them to stop and tell you about it also. Otherwise, they are not only vulnerable to other kids taking liberties, but perverts as well. If you haven’t been discussing this, you need to start right away.
        Lindsay recently posted…A Biblical View of AlcoholMy Profile

  11. Just FYI – I walked in on my parents multiple times during childhood/teenagerhood and I was not damaged in the slightest by it.

    I was, however, annoyed that they would have sex with the door open in a 2 bedroom apartment, which IMO is being inconsiderate to their kids.

  12. Sheila,

    Your post makes me cry. I thought sex was a private thing, complete with child-friendly codewords. But you make it sound wonderful, relaxing and nothing at all to be ashamed about. A whole new way of seeing (and feeling) things. Thanks.

    daynawrites@blogspot.com

  13. Love this post Sheila.

    My parents were very very very traditional and we never talked about sex in our house. They loved each other but were not showy or affectionate towards each other.

    I knew that sex was a bad idea before marriage. Mama and my conservative Kenyan culture told me so. But not knowing or seeing the other side of the story made me fly blind. You know it’s bad now but you’ve never seen how good it will be then! Pictures are so powerful.

    I bless God that by the time I got married, I had a great christian mentor couple who were already modelling affection and fun and were not shy about discussing bedroom matters (to the degree that my single ear could handle of course)
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…How To Keep Moving Even When You Are Standing StillMy Profile

  14. This is great Sheila, and such good advice for me to be reading now before we have kids. I never remember my parents being affectionate towards one another- at all. I can’t recall a time when I saw my parents hold hands let alone kiss. They are now divorced unfortunately, but my point is I never felt they were “in love” with one another. Roommates, more like. I think the priority of husband and wife needs to remain tip top, even when we add little ones to the mix!

    Blessings,
    Nicole at Working Kansas Homemaker
    Nicole recently posted…My First VLogMy Profile

  15. Love this . . . I think #1 is so important. My four-year-old saw hubby and I hugging the other day and looked up at us from across the room and said, “Mommy, you love Daddy!?” (Not sure if it was a statement or a question, but cute nonetheless.)
    Valerie @ Momma in Progress recently posted…Top Ten {Tuesday}: The Co-Sleeping EditionMy Profile

  16. I was raised in a home where sex was never mentioned, so while raising our family, I struggled to treat sex as a natural part of life.
    I did not feel comfortable, but made myself talk and treat sexual matters in a natural manner. Man that was hard to do. When our kids were 12, 14 and 17 and my husband and I headed off to bed a bit “early” the oldest
    asked if we were headed to the “boom-boom room” . I was just prayin’ that the bed wasn’t squeaking that night. All three are now adults and happily married, so I guess we did ok.
    Thank you for the post.

  17. I really think this is so right on! I have four kids. Two girls, two boys. Ages 14-7 and now that they are old enough to pick up on what Mom and Dad are talking about I have had to reign it in just a bit to not totally traumatize them, but at the same time I continue to tell them how I think their dad is HOT, HOT, HOT!! They laugh, roll eyes, and scream ewwww sometimes but I know what it was like when my mom and dad, now married 42 years would do this sort of thing. It was a very comforting feeling to know that they loved each other, so BRAVO!!
    BTW, I’m new here. Just stumbled upon your blog when I was looking for a Wednesday blog link up. I will be back. GOOD good stuff.
    Noel recently posted…Tip Me Tuesdays(and a giveaway)My Profile

    • Noel, so glad you found me! Welcome to To Love, Honor and Vacuum, and I totally agree that it makes kids feel safe when they know their parents love each other!

  18. I recently saw this commercial that’s been on TV recently for sliced turkey?? I think?? The purpose of the commercial is to say ‘yes’ to this product and during the commercial there are various scenarios where the mom character says ‘no’ before saying ‘yes.’ One of these scenarios is when her daughter opens the van door, sees her parents (and her mom’s disheveled hair) and exclaims, “Ew! Were you two just making out in here?” or something to that effect. The mom awkwardly answers ‘no.’

    This is not something to be ashamed of in marriage! So what if our kids, parents, siblings, anyone for that matter, sees us kissing or catches us making out or knows how “in-love” we are? That’s a good thing!

    I don’t have kids yet, but I was definitely one of those kids who didn’t know anything about sex when I got married because my family never talked about it, except the “don’t do it” part, and I was a product of a divorced family. But my husband and I have already talked about how important it is for our “someday” kids to see that we are happy, in-love, and how wonderful sex really is in the right context within marriage. We make it a point not to EVER be embarrassed about our love for one another and smooch and hug as often as possible period – (in public and not) and I can’t tell you how much that has improved our love life!
    Hannah Williams recently posted…Broken – Love Poured OutMy Profile

  19. We don’t have children yet, but let me say that this is SO important for parents to be a little open about with their children. Growing up, it was a taboo subject. We just sort of “knew” that it wasn’t allowed before marriage, but I don’t remember ever having a “talk” with my parents about any of it. Two results from that:

    1, My husband taught me everything I know. Thankfully he was an EMT when we married, so he was able to teach me. But it was still kind of embarrassing when he knew more about my body then I did.
    2, I couldn’t even say the word “sex” out loud until we’d been married almost 4 years, let alone discuss the topic with him. We’re doing great now, but I sure wish we could have discussed a few things earlier rather than later. I wish I could have been more comfortable with the whole topic to bring it up at the very beginning of our marriage.

    Parents NEED to say more to their kids than just “don’t do it.” They NEED to let their kids see them showing affection, and while some things obviously should stay in the bedroom, it doesn’t need to be as hush-hush and private as some older generations seem to think. Kids need good examples to follow, not just bad ones to avoid!
    E.Johnson recently posted…Analyze ThisMy Profile

  20. So if this doesn’t happen in my marriage is it dooming my children to repeat it? Dooming them to thinking badly about sex or being unable to tell the difference between too much affection prior to marriage and simple affection? They already notice that mama may kiss daddy but daddy never kisses her back, mama may try to hug daddy but he never hugs her back, they notice that grandma and grandpa hug and kiss each other, they go on dates, they like each other. My daughter has even said that when she gets married she’s going to marry someone like grandpa who takes her on dates and hugs and kisses her. I’m glad she has that example b/c I seriously doubt our ‘marriage’, if you can call it that anymore, is ever going to be much more than an example of what NOT to do/be like.

    • Amythest, that’s too bad that your husband isn’t affectionate anymore. But it’s great that your children have their grandparents as examples, and so, no, your kids are never doomed to repeat it. Just add lots of prayer and lots of open communication with them, and you can get over a lot of difficulties. I didn’t have good examples growing up, and I determined to live my adult life the opposite of how I grew up, and it’s worked out well. It’s just that, in general, it’s better to have good examples than not to have good examples. But with God, no one is ever “doomed”.

      As for your husband, I’m sorry that you don’t connect. Is there any way you can just work at trying to do things together, or have fun together? Just take up a hobby, or watch sports with him, or something? Sometimes we just need to break negative patterns by trying to inject some fun in the relationship. I hope you’re able to do that.

  21. My parents never really talked about it. It was never brought up honestly. Then when I met my now husband, it became the only thing that my dad c
    Talked about around us was don’t do anything. Never specifically, no “talk”, on my wedding day all my mom said was that it might hurt. We have been married for 8 years and I still have trouble saying the s-word, I have trouble talking to him (my husband!) about that, and I get so embarrassed about it. It is embarrassing how uncomfortable I am. I have trouble reading books that have stuff described in them (nothing x-rated, anything!). I am 27 and have such a hard time with this subject. How dumb is that?
    Sorry for the rambling it just bothers me and maybe talking about it will help me to not be embarrassed. Maybe?

  22. I was raised with Sex being a non-spoken subject. It was just known NO sex till marriage(which I agree with) and Sex only when hubby wants it(which i don’t agree with). I didn’t see my parents affectionate, if anything I heard lots of negatives, my father was sexually, mentally, verbally and physically abusive to my mother. I never realized however until reading this post how it truly has effected me. My husband is loving, never negative, or verbally abusive,always telling me how sexy I am and how much just to look at me turns him on, yet I still hear the words my father spoke to my mother in my head:/
    My husband also has no quips with children knowing mom and dad are “Having Sex”. Not in a broadcasting way but so what if they hear a “Yes Moan” but I am forever saying Shhh or we can’t do that kids are still up they may hear us. I can tell husband it hurt by it. Children are 18,13, and 12, they know about sex, why should they not know that their father and I still greatly desire each other……My children are always like ewwww, get a room or we don’t need to see that when hubby kisses me or pats my butt , and yet I see the twinkle in their eye, they feel secure knowing mom and dad still do that.
    Reading your blog here made me realize that come Monday I am seeking counseling for the abuse I saw and heard my mother endure and counseling for the sexual, physical, verbal abuse I encountered as a child.
    AND no matter what time kids are up to, hubby has a surprise waiting for him tonight; )

  23. So true – this past Valentine’s Day our 16 year-old son told my husband that he wouldn’t come to see us before bed that night “because it IS Valentine’s” , wink wink. We have always thought it is healthy for our kids to see us kiss and hug each other, this took it to another level :-)

  24. I remember when my husband and I were dating, we were hanging out at his parents house on a Friday afternoon, talking about our Friday night plans. We were just going to the mall, nothing special, and my future FIL suggested we take his 12-y-o sister with us. MIL exclaimed “HARRY! They do NOT want his little sister along on their date!” My future hubby laughed and teased “Oh, it’s ok, mom, he just is hoping to get lucky tonight!”

    With that, my FIL stood up and exclaimed “YES! They are finally old enough to get it!!” My MIL blushed, my future SIL said “please, get me out of here!” and we all trooped out. Came back later to find FIL in his robe fixing himself some ice cream, with a big smile on his face.

    I always thought that was a funny, and fine message to send, all the way around. Our kids are in their 20’s now, and generally less mortified by signs that we have an active sex life than they were as teens. It’s a lot easier to talk about what we hope they will seek in their own partners some day when we’ve been demonstrating all along what we believe to be the fullness of a marriage relationship.

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  1. [...] fine for your kids to know you enjoy one another. Sheila did a great post about this today – Kids Pick Up Our Attitudes About Sex. So kiss each other, hug each other, flirt with each other, love each other. You are living proof [...]

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