What If Your Kids Catch You Having Sex?

What happens if your kids catch you having sex?

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We’ve had parents write us concerned that their children will find them having sex and be psychologically damaged.

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Many have said their concern has gotten in the way of their sex life (i.e. this fear is of such a concern that they sometimes avoid having sex with their partner.)

I think the fear, to a point, is rational, but when it starts interfering with living a healthy life, the fear itself becomes very unhealthy.

Paul Okami, a Professor at UCLA, conducted research that followed families and children from a young age until they reached adulthood. They studied the long-term effects of “household nudity” exposure as well as children being exposed to “primal scenes”.

I think these studies and articles written are helpful, but that is it. Helpful.

Let’s start with exposure to non-sexual “household” nudity:

“Exposure to parental nudity was associated with positive, rather than negative, sexual experiences in adolescence, but with a reduced sexual experience overall.” -source

This isn’t really addressing the original question that started this post, but it is is helpful information for many wondering if it is appropriate to allow their children to see themselves nude.

The outcome makes sense when you think about the fact that allowing your child to see the human body, exposed (rather,  just in a normal state) aids in allowing the child to identify the human body as normal and multifunctional (not just for sexual purposes). This would give a child greater self-confidence to not give in to peer pressure or have their first sexual experience before they feel they are ready.

Okay, now the real question. If your child has walked in on you having sex, will they be scarred for life?

“In the case of primal scenes, exposure was associated with improved relations with adults outside of the family and with higher levels of self-acceptance. Girls exposed to primal scenes were also less likely to have used drugs such as PCP, inhalants, or various psychedelics in adolescence. The one note of caution was sounded by a significant sex of participant interaction indicating that males’ exposure to primal scenes was associated with reduced risk of social “problems” associated with sexuality, while the opposite was the case for females. Women in our study who had been exposed to primal scenes reported increased instances of STD transmission and pregnancy. All findings were independent of the effects of SES, sex of participant, family stability, pathology, “pro-naturalism,” and beliefs and attitudes toward sexuality.” -source

Well, according to this, it sounds like that depends on the gender of your child.

The results here are so mixed that it doesn’t give much answer to the question, but I think it helps in formulating a personal opinion.

In my opinion, it seems to me “primal scenes” make sense to avoid, but if it does happen, it doesn’t mean your child is going to need therapy for the rest of his or her life. I think it also has much to do with how you handle the situation. Allowing your child to be subjected to unhealthy and unrealistic interpretations of sexual encounters from erotic content on TV, I would imagine, would be much more damaging during development than walking in on a healthy act of intercourse between a child’s parents.

I think avoiding sex completely to avoid the potential exposure of a child to a sex act is almost more harmful long-term to the child. It seems exposure risk is relatively low (especially when basic precautions are taken), but parents avoiding adult intercourse would likely cause many issues within the adult relationship that would in turn affect the child.


Tags assigned to this article:
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5 comments

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  1. Jen D. 13 June, 2013, 08:14

    Interesting topic. I don’t think a child accidentally walking in on their parents would cause any major problems, maybe confusion more than anything given the age. I think it would be a bit more “scarring” the older the child is…just because it could be embarrassing and maybe a little gross, haha. I still remember hearing my parents doing it once when I was a teenager…their bedroom was above mine. I still shudder at the thought, haha.

    I think sex is something parents should try to keep private…at least while in the act. It’s a physical and emotional bond between the two people involved.

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  2. Noelle 13 June, 2013, 08:41

    My parents were nudists and I spent half my childhood going to a nudist resort. When I was a teen I thought it was embarrassing and would not tell people about it. Once I got a little older I was grateful for the way I was raised. I have no hang ups about the human body or nudity and saw what healthy real people looked like. There are no “perfect” bodies in real life and I did not have problems comparing myself to unrealistic standards seen in the media etc. I also did not rush into having sex as a teen unlike many of my peers.

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  3. Laura 13 June, 2013, 11:37

    I’m not scarred. At least, I don’t think I am. I walked in on my parents when I was about seven. I knew exactly what was happening and backtracked immediately. It was more embarrassing for both parties than anything.

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  4. Elizabeth 18 July, 2013, 05:55

    I think you’re right. Kids being exposed to entertainments portrayal is much more damaging than seeing their parents sex life. I think it’s healthy for kids to see their parents hugging, kissing, and just touching in general. I know when I was little I always pretended it annoyed me, but I secretly loved it. I knew they were in love and it gave me security seeing them touching. I never saw anything inappropriate. I also think that if parents go out of their way to hide their affection for their spouses, kids will see this and interpret it to mean that it’s wrong because mommy and daddy are hiding it. I think that makes them more curious but less open and honest with their questions.

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  5. Rebeckah 12 January, 2014, 09:06

    My siblings and I glimpsed our parents in the act when we opened the door one time. We just quietly shut the door and went to another room to giggle about it. We knew what they were doing, and that it was completely normal. So, no scarring whatsoever for any of us. lol

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