What do you do if you found your daughter’s sex toy, or your son says something highly offensive at school?

I have such a huge backlog of reader questions that I’ve decided to take a few Mondays this summer when I normally do a deep-dive into one question and instead answer a few of the quick ones at once, lightning round edition! 

Today I’m going to tackle four parenting conundrums:

1. I found my daughter’s sex toy!

A woman asks:

Reader Question

 I just went through my daughters stuff to look for something and I found a dildo…. I’m not sure what to do. She is 17. Any advice?

Oh, yikes. Oh, dear. That one is super awkward, isn’t it?

I’m going to tell you what I would do, but I could be wrong. I’d love to hear other people’s answers to this one, too! And I do think a lot depends on your daughter’s personality and on your relationship. Do you talk about stuff really easily? Are you both open books? Or is she more private?

But in general, I think I’d let this one go and not mention it. My answer would likely be different if she were 14, but at 17, she’s almost an adult. My general rule for teenagers is that, for the last year that they live in the house, there are no rules, because she (or he) has to get used to making good decisions by herself (or himself).

To talk to someone who is 17 about their actual masturbation habits BECAUSE you found their sex toy is just highly embarrassing.

Instead what I’d do is open up the conversation as much as you can, more broadly, towards sex in general. Talk about how it’s supposed to be intimate, and not just something physical. Talk about how one of the problems that people often have with sex is that it’s easier for men to feel good than women, and so we have to learn to communicate with our spouses what we like. But becoming dependent on something else can make that process difficult. Those are conversations that you could have in general, without referring to what you found.

If it’s a younger child, in our The Whole Story course, we do have modules where masturbation is talked about, and then there’s a guided discussion between the mom/daughter or father/son, to make it easier. That course is available either for 10-12 year olds, or 13-15 year olds, or you can get the complete package.

Are you terrified to give your kids “the talk?”

We want to help. So we created The Whole Story: an online video-based course to help parents tell their children about sex, puberty, and growing up.

Let us start those awkward conversations, so you can finish them!

I would say, though, that once they’re 17 or 18, their sex life is pretty much their own prerogative, and all you can do is keep the lines of communication open.

(But again, I’d love to know what others think, so let me know in the comments!)

2. My Husband Co-Sleeps with Our 4-Year-Old!

Usually the questions about co-sleeping I get are from husbands, but here’s a desperate wife writing in who is being squeezed out of her own bed:

Reader Question

Please help husband cosleeps with our 4 year old and no room in the bed for me. I usually end up sleeping in her bed. Our youngest child is 4 years old and pitches fits if she doesn’t sleep with daddy. He refuses to help me break her habit. If I bring up how this is a problem he gets mad and tells me I let it happen. Our sex life is non-existent. I can’t continue to live like this.

We have grown so far apart that I don’t think I can fix this. I sure don’t where to start. The only time she sleeps in her bed is when I convince my husband to lay down with her in her bed and get her to sleep.. Problem is, he sleeps there all night. I’ve tried to just keep putting her back in her bed but she cries and husband gets mad at me acting as tho I’m torturing her by doing this..

I’m at my wit’s end here and feel as though I’m the only one in our relationship. (My husband left me for another girl for 2 yrs and now he is back.. That’s why I believe our daughter is acting like she is…)

Wow, that’s a huge, multi-faceted problem! To deal with just the co-sleeping part, it isn’t emotionally healthy for a 4-year-old child to need their dad like this and be unable to self-soothe. It’s also very bad for your marriage. I’ve got some posts here where the roles are reversed–where it’s the wife who is co-sleeping–but I think it applies here, too.

That being said, I’m not sure this is just a co-sleeping issue. If the husband left for two  years, and is now back, it could very well be that the daughter feels insecure, like she’s going to lose him. And it looks as if though he’s “back”, but he’s not really emotionally back.

When someone has an affair and then tries to return, that’s a lot of hurt that needs to be unpacked. It can’t be rushed, and it can’t be swept under the rug. I don’t know if this couple has ever gone to counseling, but I would recommend seeing a licensed marriage therapist and work through the betrayal. You need to rebuild trust, and part of that rebuilding process is seeing your husband actually committed to working on the marriage. I’m not seeing that right now.

At the same time, I do know some spouses choose to live together and stay together, even if they’re not happy, so they can raise their kids together. Even if that’s the case, though, you should see a marriage counselor to make sure that you’re doing the best for the emotional health of your daughter. If he’s triangulating–in other words, relying on her for his emotional needs rather than his wife–that’s actually a very dangerous thing to do to her psyche, and seriously messed up. So I would insist on a counselor and try to sort all of this big problem out!

3. Help! My Son Made a Crude Comment at School!

Here’s another messy situation:

Reader Question

Yesterday my 10 year old son got in trouble at school for making a very crude comment to his friends about a girl in his class, which got back to her. I was absolutely shocked when I heard what he said, not only by its sexually explicit content, but also by the disrespectful attitude to a female. We have dealt with it through discussions and consequences, but it made me very concerned about the influences my son is encountering at school so young, and how we as parents fight against those. I know I can’t entirely shield him from the ‘raunchy culture’, but I do want to give him the right view of sex and intimacy so he knows the wrong when he sees it. At the same time, he’s only 10, so I feel like a lot of the videos etc out there are too much for him. I would love your thoughts or resources on setting the right groundwork for him on sex before his head is filled with too much nonsense!

Definitely a rough one! I know she said she already dealt with the incident itself, but I’d just say that when something like this happens in one so young, these are the three things to remember:

  • Make amends to those who are hurt
  • Focus on not shaming the child, but instead helping the child understand what happened
  • Use this to start conversations, not be too angry

Often children say things that they know are a little out of bounds because they think it will make them “cool”. But they rarely understand the full repercussions of what they said. If you come down like a ton of bricks, then, you add shame where they may not have understood the gravity of it. Using this as a teaching moment is a better idea. Yes, they must make amends and apologize. But to go on about how disappointed you are in them or how they made Jesus angry is likely overkill, unless you know that your child fully understood what he (or she) said and fully meant it. At 10, that is likely not the case. They may have known it was an insult, and that it was a bad thing to say, but they may not have realized the significance of it.

For instance, if I had a child who used the “n” word towards a black schoolmate, I would make them apologize and make them write a letter to the child and his or her parents. But then I would read a ton of books on the history of slavery and on the integration of schools in the 1950s and 1960s. I would watch the movie Ruby Bridges. I would talk about the history of racism, and WHY that particular word is so bad. Help them understand it, rather than just getting mad. Not only do they learn to stop using the word that way, but they also are equipped to stand up when someone else says those horrible things and maybe influence their own classmates down the road.

Okay, now the for the other issue: How do you protect your kids from influences? Two big things: Know their friends, and, as much as possible, make your house the hang-out house; and keep the lines of communication open in your home so that your kids can talk to you about anything. Have family meals. Talk around the table. Don’t get so busy with activities that you have no time to hang out as a family. Make sure you know who your kids are hanging out with, and have them at family meals, too, so you can talk to them. When you know your kids’ influencers, it makes it easier to have good conversations.

4. My Adult Daughter Has Cut Off Contact with Us

Here’s a heartbreaking one:

Reader Question

A few years ago, two of our children experienced a very traumatic event which affected our entire family. Later, I was asked to speak at a ladies’ event, at which I shared how God has helped me through this trauma. All children were in attendance, as well as, beforehand I had discussed with them what I was going to share that evening. 

I discovered later that week, that this talk negatively affected my daughter. We talked through some issues and seemed to be ok, but last year, she completely cut off my husband and myself, and has kept her children from seeing us without her husband being present. We have always had an open relationship and this has left me nite saddened and confused. I have tried to reach out to her, but to no avail. We see each other when the whole family is together, but even when I hug her and tell her I love her, she gives no response.

So sad! I can only imagine how awful that would make you feel.

However, obviously your daughter has trauma that she is still trying to process, and whether you intended it or not, you contributed to that trauma by telling the story in a large group setting. Even if you thought this was okay beforehand, it evidently triggered a lot in her, and made her see you as an unsafe person. That’s so tough!

What I would do, I think, is to write her a letter and say that you are sincerely sorry for causing her any hurt, even if it wasn’t intentional. You are grieved that you have done anything that has contributed to her sadness. Tell her you love her, and you will always be there if she ever needs you or wants you, but you want to respect her decision. Tell her that if she would like, you are more than willing to sit down with a third party counselor, at your expense, and talk this through, and allow her to get off her chest anything that she is feeling.

I would then treat her husband very well, but not try to manipulate him in any way. Just love him. And do not, even if it is tempting, try to get the other siblings involved in peace-making. Honour your daughter’s choices and boundaries, and pray hard. And I am so, so sorry.

Those were a lot of questions! And now I’d like to turn it over to you: What would you do if your son made a crude comment? If you found a daughter’s sex toy? Or any other comments? Let’s talk!

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