Will the world come to an end if your kids know you have sex?
It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage here at To Love, Honor and Vacuum! And for the last few weeks my girls and I have been working on a really exciting project. We’ve been creating an online video based course called The Whole Story: Not-So-Awkward Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up for moms to share with their daughters (there’s one version for girls aged 10-12 and one for girls aged roughly 13-15). It’s hard talking to your kids about sex, so here’s a resource that starts the conversation in a non-intimidating manner, and then you can finish it! My girls will be doing the videos, and then we’ll have tons of discussion questions, activities, etc for you all to do together.
Anyway, as I was getting the course ready I thought I’d just take a poll of all the people who get my Friday roundup email (are you subscribed yet?), and ask them what they thought the hardest part about talking to your kids about puberty and sex was.
I gave four options, but also asked for people to just write me and tell me what they felt.
And the overwhelming response was something I never even thought of. Didn’t even occur to me (so I’m glad I asked!). Most people said a version of:
I’m just scared of having them know what we’re doing!
So I thought–maybe we should talk about that together on the blog.
Are you ready?
Why are we so scared of our kids knowing we have sex?
Is that what it really comes down to–that we’re scared that since they know what we’re doing, they’ll see us differently?
Here’s what some people wrote to me:
my biggest fear is them getting freaked out by it and thinking of us differently when they learn not just what sex is but that their parents actually do it. And how we should deal with those questions that stop being general and start being personal and closer to home.
Okay–one thing. Kids are very unlikely to ask you specifics about your sex life! It may happen sometimes, but very few will. And if they ask for specifics, it’s okay to say that that’s just between you and your dad! So don’t let that throw you off.
And another mom expressed something similar:
One of the biggest reasons I still haven’t had the talk with my kids (7 & 9) is that they’ll know what we’re up to when we close our door or shower together, etc. Its just completely embarrassing, plus I hate for them to have to know or “worry” about what we’re doing
Let me reassure you on this one, too: Just because kids know what sex is does not mean that they assume that their parents are “doing it” if the parents are alone together. I think my daughters were well into the teen years before it actually dawned on them that we still had sex–it wasn’t something that we just did to make babies years ago. If they had thought about it more before then they would have realized it, but it simply never occurred to them to think about it, even after they knew what sex was. Kids just don’t tend to make that leap.
But here’s one that I think gets to the heart of the issue:
But the main reason, in my opinion, is not wanting your kids to see you as a sexual being. Even keeping it medical-textbook level is still going to make them see you differently, before you get to anything about connecting emotionally/spiritually, etc. Not to mention the second the kid asks anything even slightly more specific than the very very general basics, the parent is then going to show both their knowledge and lack of it and showing their inner soul. It’s like they’ve just opened the door and let the kid in on their own sex life, something that they had kept private between them and their partners.
I get this. It’s like you really have broken down a huge wall that used to be there to protect your relationship with their dad. And now they do see you differently–or at least they might. And that can seem scary. So let’s explore that for a minute.
There’s a difference between your kids knowing you’re having sex and your kids knowing you have sex
Advertising to your children that you are having sex right now is pretty inappropriate. Having sex if you’re staying in the same hotel room with kids that are older, for instance, even if you think they’re asleep, is a pretty big breach of their privacy. Leaving the door open–ditto. Not trying to be quiet? Really bad. That’s what I was getting at when we talked about sex and family vacations (like camping!)
But if you’re trying to be private and they figure it out, that’s not really traumatizing. Walls do not always keep noises out, and no one can be quiet as a mouse all the time. My philosophy is this: If you are obviously intending to be quiet, and you are doing something together that your kids can pretend to ignore, then it’s okay. If you’re doing something where it’s absolutely obvious that your children know (like having them lying in the bed next to yours), and you can’t pretend they don’t know, then it’s not okay.
Look, the last thing you want your kids to think is that marriage is where sex goes to die! I’ve had some young people tell me that they figured that they had better have as much sex as possible before they get married because afterwards it won’t happen. Who would want to get married if that’s what they thought? So having kids know that you have sex really is okay. It’s even a good advertisement for responsible living and for marriage!
(And I thought this old Ragu commercial could bring some levity to this discussion!)
Ask yourself: Why am I so scared that they’ll know what we’re doing?
Really ask yourself. And, “Because they can picture us having sex!” is not an answer. It doesn’t get to the emotional side of it. It just restates the fear in another way.
Dig down until you find the emotional root. Is it:
- Because I’m actually afraid of them growing up and not being innocent anymore?
- Because I’m scared that they may start to have sexual feelings themselves?
- That they may see me in a different way–and I don’t want them to think that I have sexual feelings?
- That I’m embarrassed that I have sexual feelings?
- That I don’t like thinking of myself as a sexual being?
Okay, now once you have the fear, what are we going to do with it?
Tell yourself the truth about your sexuality
One thing I’ve been trying to hammer home ever since I wrote 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage is that the only way to bring real change is to challenge the negative thought patterns that come into your head and replace them with truth. Like 2 Corinthians 10:5 says:
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
So what do we know about sex in marriage?
- God created sex, among other reasons, for our mutual pleasure and benefit
- God created sex to be pleasurable (and even gave women a piece of anatomy that’s only there for pleasure), so He wants us to have a good time
- Sex is not shameful. It’s beautiful in marriage.
- Our sexuality and spirituality are inexplicably linked. They both involve deep vulnerability and intimacy, and that’s why they’re both very personal and very beautiful.
- Sex is private, between two married people, but it does not have to be secret. In marriage, it’s assumed that two people will enjoy each other sexually.
- You want your children to grow up to see sex as something beautiful they can enjoy with a spouse, not as something shameful that they need to feel badly about.
And that last one is so important, because kids tend to pick this stuff up from their parents. If you give your child the impression: “I don’t like this side of myself, and I’m embarrassed that I have it,” then kids will think there’s something embarrassing and not quite right about sexuality. But if you give kids the impression, “This is part of who I am, and I enjoy being married, but it is something private that is between your dad and me”, then they can see it as something to look forward to in marriage.
If you find yourself hesitating because you don’t want kids to know “you do it”, then, try to think differently about your aim.
Don’t you want to raise kids who will be content and confident in their sexuality? Don’t you want kids to have a good and healthy view of marriage? Don’t you want kids to know that you and their dad are safe people to talk to about sex?
Those are all good things. But they’ll be much harder to achieve if you feel hung up about your children knowing you’re a sexual being.
If you have those fears, that’s okay. They likely spring from something real in your background that isn’t your fault. But I just encourage you to practice confronting those fears head on, identifying the root, and replacing it with what you really want for your children. This is an important part of parenting, and I know that God wants to help you do it well!
If you have girls, then maybe The Whole Story can be a part of that for you. See it here!
Let’s talk in the comments: Are you nervous about your children knowing you “do it”? What do you think the root of that is?