Wifey Wednesday: Is It So Bad if Your Kids Know You “Do It”?

by | Sep 6, 2017 | Parenting Young Kids | 20 comments

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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.

Check it out here!

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 Kids Knowing that Their Parents Have Sex? Getting to the root of the fear of telling kids about sex.

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

9 Thoughts That Can Change Your MarriageOne 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:

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?

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Sandy in Los Angeles

    I agree that kids don’t “go there.” My daughter walked in on us in the heat of the moment when she was 6. I stopped immediately and went to her side. I explained that it was nothing for her to worry about and that is something that married people do when they really love each other. She seemed fine with that. But, I worried that would mess her up and distort her thoughts of sex.

    She is now 26. This never came up through the years and frankly I was too embarrassed to bring it up. But I worried. Just a few months ago I got the courage to bring it up and ask if it affected her. She said “not really.” She said she has a fuzzy memory of “something.” But no, she never thinks about it and hasn’t for years.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Isn’t that interesting? That confirms what I’ve seen, too! And I think it’s great that you were able to ask your daughter that. She likely just didn’t think about it much.

  2. Cara

    Thank you for this Sheila. I love all of your posts but this one really is something parents need.
    I’m dealing with this in a special way right now. We live in our travel trailer with our 3 kids (hubby works in different places so we go with). My teenage son actually told me the other day he knows when we do. “But it doesn’t bother me because I know that’s what married people do.” I was so proud of him for his attitude and so mortified at the same time. We make every effort to be discreet but let’s get real…it’s a travel trailer. It moves when we walk!!! So what would your advice be here?
    I’ve tried very hard to portray sex as a natural normal part “of marriage” (I think I said that phrase 43,532 times when I talked to my oldest 2 about sex-I know for a fact my 7 and 9 year olds are not ready)
    And apparently I did ok!!!

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, dear, I hear you about the trailer! We used to camp in one when the girls were younger and it definitely moves! But they were little then. Must be so hard with a teenager! Sounds like he’s got a great perspective, though. And I guess I’d say try to encourage the teenager to spend some time out of the trailer and give you some privacy!

      • Cara

        I’m lol’ing!! “Son, can you take a walk? We would like to do what made you and don’t want you to feel it” 😂😂😂

        My younger kids are clueless like I said. And he’s “cool” about it but yikes!!! I have enough trouble!

    • E

      Hi Cara,

      I wonder what people did back in the biblical days, where so many ‘houses’ were basically one room? I wonder what people these days who live in countries where one room houses are the norm, do? I wonder if the whole idea of privacy, and keeping sex hidden from children is something that culture has put upon us, rather than something that God designed?

      I think it is another example of a heart issue, as in, as long as you are not trying to flaunt it and be exhibitionist about it (which it certainly doesn’t sound like you are!), I don’t think there is an issue if kids ‘know’ what you are doing.

      Another thing to think about is that it is probably much, MUCH healthier for kids to get their ideas of what sex is from knowing that their (married) parents are having sex than from porn (which kids might actually seek out due to curiousity if they don’t know what sex is, but are unlikely to seek out if it would actually give them a visual of what they have heard their parents doing! LOL)

      Your son sounds like a young man with his head screwed on straight, and I think you should be proud to have raised someone with such a healthy view of sex…you have likely blessed his future spouse in a multitude of ways!

      • Cara

        Awww thank you!! I think he’s a pretty great kid-most of the time 😉 (after all
        He is a teenager and we do live in small quarters!)

        Good points tho. Maybe it is purely society. I also made sure they were comfortable with periods and breastfeeding. It’s all natural.
        I don’t flaunt anything but he has also seen me. I tried to NEVER make a big ordeal if he walked in while I was dressing. I didn’t want it to be this huge deal. That was hard for me as I wasn’t raised that way.
        As far as I know he has never accessed porn. That was part
        Of my intention.

        You’re right, in Bible times (and even in pioneer times) there had to be kids around while those 12 siblings were being made!! 😉

  3. Lydia purple

    My 7 year old who witnessed the 3 home births of her siblings and who knows how babies are made just recently came up to me and my husband while we were kissing and asked “so where are the little thingies that swim over to mom to make a baby”… It cracked me up. We told her that we were just kissing and not making a baby and that she would not be able to watch the little swimmers ever 🙂

    I remember knowing that our parents have sex but it never was something to occupy my thoughts much. At one point there was some preteen silliness of finding condoms in their night stand (where we had no business digging around)…

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Love that! And it is true, isn’t it? We really don’t dwell on our parents that much. Not nearly as much as parents think we do!

  4. Libl

    No big deal here. We live in a small house and trained our children from toddlerhood to respect our shut bedroom door and just put on PBS Kids on the TV.

    I heard my parents having sex once or twice since my room was right next to theirs, and I think I was more bothered that my mom “put up with” sex when my dad didn’t really treat her with love and respect. I was also cranky that she had sex when she couldn’t even say the word sex and anything private was cloaked in shame and embarrassment. I was shamed for my period being noticeable because of my heavy flows and severe cramping. Everyone knew.

    But, I was not bothered about the sex itself.

    • Sheila Gregoire

      Oh, I hear you about the period problems! And that must have been so hard to see your mom not really being treated well and then still having sex. It’s amazing how many hangups we do have from when we were kids about what we were made to feel ashamed of.

      • Libl

        I’m the opposite of my mom. While I disallow fornication (movies, tv, porn, scantily clad or sexualized stuff especially aimed at children), I’m the one saying, “hey kids, look at the rabbits mating in the backyard!!” “Wanna see this baby being born? Come on! It’s beautiful!!”

        I’m the one calling for my kids to get my feminine products for me because I am stuck on the toilet. I’m the one practically streaking through the house because I left my bra in the bedroom (we don’t have an en suite).

        So, they ask questions, and I answer, truthfully, factually, medically, scientifically, and Biblically. I don’t see it as ruining innocents. At 5 years old my Barbie and Ken dolls got naked and rubbed up against each other and I was sheltered! Kids are a weird combination of innately knowing, but extremely ignorant. That is not a good combination.

        You start answering as soon as they start asking.

        My kids, knowing that mom will answer any question at any time, aren’t hung up about sex or dwelling on it, or confused.

  5. Dean

    I think it is very important to raise children with the concept that sex is a wonderful thing. That sex is a beautiful reunion of a man and a woman who love each other so much that they have gotten married, which means they have decided to spend the rest of their lives together.

    My wife and I have realized that we have in common the fact that we were brought up with the notion that sex is a dirty, disgusting thing. That’s one big reason for my intimacy issues and turning to masturbation in the past. For her, it was a big reason for her intimacy issues and for her suppressing her sexuality.

    I think it is important to draw a line and to say: marriage is great, sex in marriage is great, devotion and love are great, but all this other stuff on TV, in the magazines, on the internet, that’s not really sex, it is a stupid imitation that hurts people on both sides of it.

    • E

      Love that last paragraph, Dean!

  6. Ruthie

    Such an excellent point that the root of this issue is in our own thinking and attitudes towards our sexuality.

    I think you’re so right that kids just don’t put two and two together in the way we might fear they might. I was like your daughters where I didn’t register that sex was something that happened on a regular basis until I was about 13 or so. And I don’t at all remember that changing my view of my parents. I was a bit surprised and remember feeling a bit silly but it didn’t alter my view of my parents; it altered my view of sex. And I believe that was a positive thing. Children thrive when they have the stability of their parents having a healthy marriage going on and part of that is an awareness that sex is a normal and healthy part of being married.

    Our kids are aware of conflicts and conflict resolution happening in our marriages without being privvy to what’s going on at all. But there’s still an awareness. I think it’s perhaps the same with sex. I don’t want my kids to think that all that goes on behind our closed doors is conflict (and I’m talking about conflict that is resolved well, which is part of a healthy marriage). We definitely don’t want to advertise the fact that we’re having sex right now, but going over the top to cover up the fact that sex happens would send the wrong message.

  7. Kay

    I love your distinction between private and secret! If anything, I’ll probably be guilty of oversharing the details with my kids, so I will try to keep that approach in mind as I talk to them throughout the years.

    I don’t think my parents realized just how paper thin the walls were in the house we moved into when I was in junior high. We *always* knew when they were having sex; the worst was when we had friends over. 😳 We turned on the TV or radio really loud when that happened! I agree with what others have said elsewhere that sometimes it is comforting to know your parents are still having sex (even though I was hearing more than I needed to). My parents’ marriage was (well, still is) very dysfunctional, but I knew it must not be *that* bad if they were still having sex on a regular basis. That said, my mom gave me horribly mixed messages, that sex was usually something she put up with whenever my dad got crabby because he hadn’t gotten any recently. That’s not cool to share with your kid.

    I want my kids to know that we enjoy this good gift that God has given us! But I don’t need them to know that *as* it’s happening. 😂

  8. Sara

    I loved this post and all the comments after!

    My husband and I are expecting our first child in October and it’s something I’ve already started thinking about, which doesn’t surprise me since I tend to be the higher sex drive spouse. 😉

    For now we have the nursery set up in our room and don’t really know how long it will be before we move baby to her own room. This is mostly because the lower level of the house is not yet finished, which is where the other bedrooms will be, and we’re slowly finishing it as we save up money.

    I’m not concerned about having sex with her in the room while she’s a tiny baby, and of course still trying to be quiet and make sure her bed is turned away from ours. But at what age does her being in the room become inappropriate?

    • Audrey

      You’ll know. It will feel inappropriate long before it actually becomes inappropriate. And they won’t remember anything for even longer after that.

    • angela

      We have had 3 year olds in our room…It will be ok! I am sure you will have wisdom to know. 🙂

  9. Kiwiaussie

    Any advice on having “the talk” with a child with an intellectual disability? Our youngest is almost 9 and has Down
    Syndrome. She is also partially deaf, and has Cerebral Palsy and Autism as well. At the moment, we haven’t even mastered potty training, let alone periods, sex etc. it is something I struggled with when my older girls were young, and never really felt comfortable talking about it. Something I deeply regret. The second oldest is 18 and we talk quite freely, although she tends to go from teasing us, to being grossed out in minutes. She is kinda fun to tease. (Not taking it too far or saying too much of course, but she gets as good as she gives when it comes to teasing!) I think we have a much healthier relationship than we did with our other girls. Partly as I have learned more from reading your blog and books along with a couple of other Christian women. We have a much healthier sex life, and a much better understanding of it too which helps a lot.
    But back to the youngest. Like a lot of kids with DS she has a high sex drive that needs to be curbed. She is getting better, but particularly when she is tired she does what we have termed the “wiggle dance” where she is self stimulating until she settles down to sleep. She used to do it anywhere and everywhere, much to her sisters’ intense embarrassment. We tried to not make a big deal about it, but to tell her the Wiggle Dance was just for in her room not anywhere else. But it is so so hard finding good Christian advice on this. The local DS group actually had a parents evening the other night but we had a previous commitment. And in today’s society where the National Disability Insurance Scheme (a compulsory tax scheme that then pays out for services, equipment etc for the disabled, in Australia) pays for “sex therapy” – ie prostitutes who help the disabled experience sex, I am not so sure I want to hear the current thoughts in this! Whether she will get married one day or not, I do not know. But I want her to understand that sex isn’t something you have to experience. But, if she marries, it is an expression of love, that is a gift from God. Of course, then all the contraception stuff comes into it. It is hard to guess her future abilities, but at this point I doubt she would cope with having children herself.
    Anyway, sorry to ramble, and it is probably a bit much to ask of you, but maybe a reader will know of a good resource, or will have experience in this area. Because explaining all this to a child who is not really even at a 4 year old level in many ways, but is still growing up and starting to develop, is something I feel completely lost with.


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