Dear MKE SEX,
Everything about this pandemic is difficult. Every shred of predictability is gone, and there is no privacy for anyone. My husband, my tweens and I have been home together since March. Mostly we’ve figured it out. It’s not easy, but we sort of know each other’s rhythms and try to go with it. The one exception is sex. My husband and I have been trying to sneak off without getting noticed. But I guess my oldest heard us even though we tried to be so quiet. She told her brother there were “sounds” coming from my room. I wasn’t sure what to say when he asked me what we were doing while he was playing video games. What should you say when kids hear you? I’m sure other families are struggling with this too!
Quiet as a Mouse (almost!)
At some point in every kid’s life, they’re going to hear (or see) their parents having sex. It is one of those moments when parents are fully human and vulnerable. For some kids, it can be upsetting to realize their parents are sexually active. For other kids, it’s a slightly awkward moment that passes into memory (or family lore).
How you respond to it largely depends on the age of the children. Younger children can usually be appeased with a comment like, “we were playing a grown-up game,” or “we were enjoying each other’s company.” Older kids are likely to know (or figure out) what you’re doing, even if they ask you about it. Regardless of the age of the kids, it’s a good idea to use language that conveys that your activities were normal, consensual, and pleasant. This reassures them that sex is a just a regular part of life, and it helps them develop a healthy view of sexuality over time.
You said your kids are tweens, and so the answer depends on how much you want to disclose. You can say that you and your husband were having private or adult time. Kids that age will usually grasp the fact that you were having sex and not pursue the conversation. You can also say it’s none of his business. Assuming you were in your bedroom with the door closed, you have the right to do things without making them a whole family affair (even during a pandemic). Again, this answer will likely lead your kid to the conclusion that you were having sex. And it will also draw a boundary around an activity that is private between you and your husband. Or you can simply say that you were having sex. I know that might sound really daunting (or embarrassing, humiliating, inappropriate, traumatizing, etc.). But you can answer in a matter-of-fact manner. Try a simple response like, “Dad and I were having sex. We didn’t think anyone could hear us. We’re sorry if it made you uncomfortable. We’ll be more careful to stay quiet in the future.”
For most humans, sex really is a fact of life. While we don’t want to be overtly sexual in front of our children, it’s not harmful for them to know sex happens – even in their own home. Growing up with the awareness that grown-ups have sex, and that they enjoy sex, lays the groundwork for our children to be more comfortable with their own sexual pleasure as they grow into young adults.
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