You Should Have Sex (*and you shouldn’t try to hide that from your kids)
So some of you are already thinking that I'm a crazy woman, telling you not to hide sex from your kids. You're thinking of all the ways that sounds inappropriate, right? But let me explain. I'm not saying to not value the privacy and intimacy of the sexual relationship. Rather, I am telling you to teach your children to value the privacy and intimacy of the sexual relationship by acknowledging that it exists.
At some point, your kids are going to know that you've had sex. Whether that's because they learn that is the way they were conceived or because eventually they realize that “pretty much everyone does this, so I guess my parents must have done it at some point,” they will get there. So there is really no point in trying to pretend that it hasn’t happened. Eventually, the truth will reveal itself.
Since that is inevitable, isn't it wise to make the most of this opportunity you have? What opportunity, you ask? The opportunity to show your children that sex is a natural, lovely part of a normal and healthy relationship.
“But I have to protect their innocence!” you may say. “It feels awkward,” you might argue. Do you know what is increasingly hard for kids? Understanding what a healthy sexual relationship looks like based on the images presented in media. Whether we're talking television, music, or even what is shared by their peers and celebrities in social media, kids get a view of sex based on what is presented to them.
When you think about it, this is what your kids have for sex education. I'm not talking about learning the birds and the bees of the “how” sex works, mechanically (although they may hear that on the playground, too). I'm talking about learning what it means to have sex as part of a relationship.
When your children see you and your partner showing one another affection, respect, and love, it will become what they expect from those who seek out a relationship with them once they've reached an appropriate age for those things. When you let them know that you and your partner value one another and that your relationship is a priority, they will learn that they should be a valued priority to others. When you treat sex, intimacy, and affection as an important part of your relationship and day-to-day life, you show them that it's about so much more than the act itself.
So how can you do that?
Don't hide affection. My kids are in a stage right now that vocally declares kissing is gross. I tell them that they're right — for 6-year-olds, kissing IS gross. But when they grow up and really like someone, they might want to kiss them to show them how much they like them. And that's why I kiss their daddy. He and I like each other the very best.
Take time for your relationship. Whether it is getting Grandma to babysit so that you can go on a date or setting the kids up with a movie on Saturday afternoon and telling them that you are going to have some “private time” in your room, show them that, just as you care for them, you also care for each other.
Talk about bodies, intimacy, and sex in positive, appropriate terms. Many kids express curiosity early on about their own bodies, whether examining their genitals or engaging in masturbation. Respectfully let them know that their body is theirs to explore, but that privacy is important. Just as we don't put our fingers in our nose at the dinner table, we don't fondle our parts in the living room. They can learn what is appropriate and inappropriate only when they are told or shown, so go ahead and talk about it openly and without shame.
When questioned about sex or intimacy, answer the question that they are actually asking in age-appropriate terms and then allow them to lead the discussion. My kids understand already that babies exit the body through the vagina or an incision in the abdomen, but they aren't yet concerned about how they get in there. Fine by me. I'm in no rush to cross that bridge with them, but I'll hold their hands and walk over it together when we get there.
So what do you think? Do you try to keep your kids shielded from sex? What is appropriate to share?