Parenting Reader Questions: I Found My Daughter’s Sex Toy, My Husband Co-Sleeps with our Daughter, and More!

by | Aug 19, 2019 | Sheila Snippets | 21 comments

Parenting Questions: Found Daughter's Sex Toy and More

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!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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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. Flo

    I also made a mistake that led to my daughter not wanting to speak to me much. What I’ve been doing since then is trying to be there for her without intruding or bothering, trying to help her as much as I can without giving advice. And sticking to light conversation topics. This allowed us to reestablish some basic positive communication. When that positive communication strengthens sufficiently, I will try to revisit the old negative subjects and to see if I can help her heal in some way.

    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Honestly, I think that’s exactly the way to go. It’s like exercising an injured muscle–you start was 2 pounds, then 5, then 10… you don’t jump straight to 100.

      Said a prayer for you and your daughter. I hope that you’re able to have a breakthrough together soon!

      • Flo

        Thank you, Rebecca!

      • Jane Eyre

        Very strong (and personal) feelings about the last letter:

        Your *daughter* was the one who experienced this traumatic event. It ain’t your story to tell, even if it affected you. It’s not about how God helped *you* through it. *Her* boundaries matter more than yours do. She gets to heal on *her* timeline, not the timeline that works for your talk to a ladies’ group.

        Do not try to go to counseling with her, which is just another version of you co-opting her trauma and making her heal on your schedule and for your needs. Go alone.

        I’m also going to ask why your ladies’ group even knew about this in the first place, let alone wanted you to give a big talk. It is good to talk about these things with people you can trust, but – taking a wild guess here – it kinda sounds like you might have run your mouth all over town.

        Speaking for myself, when I find out that someone runs their mouth all over town about my business, the amount of “my business” that they know quickly approaches zero.

        I am very sympathetic to how trauma affects the entire family – I say this as someone who has flat-out told my husband’s friends about how dysfunctional and abusive my family is, so he can talk to them about the fallout without feeling like he’s betraying my confidence and our marriage. (One of my friends has been through something similar, and suggested a four-way support group, because it was hard on his wife to watch it happen.) But if he gave a big talk to his Bible study about how God helped him heal from it… wow, ugh, wow, ugh. So many lines, crossed so many times.

        • Recovering from betrayal

          I’m glad I’m not the only one who reacted strongly to that letter. The reader wrote “I had discussed with them what I was going to share that evening.“ it doesn’t say that she ASKED the kids PERMISSION to share about their traumatic event.

          I totally agree with Jane Eyre here. And say to the reader- please don’t write any letters or go to any counselors until you understand how you have retraumatized her. And if she does sit with a counselor with you, it’s not for you to tell your story- it’s to listen to hers. And please stop hugging her. If she is not hugging you back- that’s a boundary too. Ask her if she wants a hug instead. Everything this reader does towards her daughter needs to communicate that she respects the daughter’s personhood.

          It’s so hard to get to the point of actually limiting contact with parents even when that is needed for safety. If she is limiting contact- it’s a major deal and this reader probably needs to see this as a wake up call!

          Search out a video by Dr Cloud about wise foolish and evil people. Fools can’t be talked to, they need limits and consequences instead.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yeah, I’d agree with what you’re saying here, Jane. It does sound like she’s retraumatizing her daughter, and she has no realization of that. I do think that her going to see a counselor herself would be very good, because she needs to understand the nature of what her daughter is going through, and I’d also hope that a licensed counsellor could help mediate between the daughter and the mom to help the mom see the gravity of what she did and to help the mom apologize properly. I think a good counselor can be invaluable in that process because they can validate the daughter’s feelings and explain the trauma that the daughter is going through to the mom (preferably before group counseling). I didn’t make that clear in the answer here, and you’re right, I should have said more.

          What an awful situation.

      • Oluwafunbi Akinola

        Amazing responses..thank U for sharing! I have learnt a thing or two.

  2. J. Parker

    Good answers! On “I found my daughter’s sex toy,” well, I have sons, so if I found an analogous sex toy, it would be a vaginal sleeve. And with a 17-year-old (a minor) living in my house, you bet we’d be talking about that!

    For us, that last year before our sons left home was an opportunity not to direct their actions but to coach them–to ready them for the world beyond. I made it clear that they got to make their own choices, but also I didn’t hold back what my beliefs, based on God’s design, were. So yeah, I’d say something. I’d just be careful how I said it.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, maybe I would, too. That’s just so darn awkward. I think at 17, you likely shouldn’t look in your kids’ drawers anymore! 🙂 (Totally different at 14, but still…)

    • Jim N

      I think I would mimic this action.

      When she said at 17 then restrictions are off just set wrong with me. More probably a personal conviction. I would definitely never say what Sheila wrote was wrong.

      But when you wrote this comment it sounded much of my line of thinking when speaking about “coaching”.

      If it wasn’t talked previously this would obviously start with masturbation and what Sheila spoke of later in the reply. The why, the possible ramifications that this could cause, the danger in thought process that could occur etc.

      Basically if the above was put in then it would have probably been exactly what I would have done, Sheila. I also couldn’t fathom the awkwardness either.

  3. Bethany

    I’m realizing that maybe my parents felt that way. When my abuser confessed, that was the 1st time my father and oldest brother actually believed it happened. Though they had never outright said so. I’ve been hurt and puzzled at the way my parents have acted. My old church leadership is reaching out to them as though they were the affected ones. But as the child molested, I’ve only been reached out to by individual church members. The leadership hasn’t said a single word addressed to me. Which leads me to believe that they don’t feel anything but sympathy for my abuser. They’re “figuring out how to deal with him”, but leaving me out of the conversation. Because those family are also at odds with my stance on the other family crisis. My sister’s serially abusive, cheating husband, had an affair with a younger sister. and I refuse to ever reconcile with him, because I don’t believe he’ll change.
    This makes a little more sense, thinking of it like you put it. “Jane Eyre” and ” Recovering from betrayal”, thank you for sharing. it might help me figure out how to solve my family issues. On my side anyway, the other issue is far from simple!

    • Recovering from betrayal

      Oh Bethany. I’m so very sorry. So many horrible things there. Stand your ground on your safety and educate yourself. It’s so wrong for your parents to be comforted and not you. And it’s horrible to not be believed. My parent blamed me for being molested as a kid. I know that pain. Personally, Emdr helped me through processing all of that years later. Search out that video if you can- it is so eye opening to how the proverbs teach us to deal with the three behavior types- wise foolish and evil. I’ve also found great understanding about abusive people from Mary DeMuth. And please know that even when family and church people and other humans don’t see you, God sees. You are never alone.

  4. Scott

    Regarding the sex toy, here’s a man’s (and father’s) perspective, though my oldest is only 9: some serious intervention needs to be done. I’m not saying “take it away”, and maybe not even specifically mention it was found. But something very deep, very heartfelt, and very direct should be done.

    I’ll use my story to explain why I feel this way: as a male teen, I was a late bloomer to masturbation (according to Marriage Bed survey), not “going all the way” until I was 18, just weeks before starting college. I didn’t know what I was doing at the time until after “it” happened, but immediately knew it was wrong. I managed to refrain from doing it again before college (I remember shaking violently with the need and desire for the release and “hit” it would give me, getting very little sleep), but hoped it would go away once I had a shared college room. It didn’t, and I eventually gave in and it led to a porn addiction and the rest.

    I didn’t meet my wife until 4 yr later. After we started dating, I told her of my deeply shameful habits. I did kick the porn then, but didn’t fully stop the masturbation (it is much more tempting honestly). So by the time we married, I may very well have gone “solo” 1500-2000 times! Unfortunately, old habits (sin) die hard, and I fell back into occasional porn/masturbation less than 1 yr after getting married. I didn’t tell my wife until shortly after our 12th anniversary.

    I cannot really comprehend the damage I’ve done to myself, my wife, my relationship with my wife, and even my relationship with my kids. While the post-marriage stuff is worse, even the stuff from when I was 18 did significant damage. The re-wiring of the brain is real. And each and every event harmed.

    On the contrary, my wife has never had an orgasm (except a dozen or so while she was asleep during her pregnancies, which is incredibly humiliating that I can’t please her but her dreams can), and I very much long for the day when we can share her “first” just between us and that will be the only type she experiences (mutual). I am jealous that she will have no baggage, assuming we ever get to that point. I ruined that chance for me 4 years before I even met her.

    Now, none of us are naive enough to think that many young adults are “experience free” and will make it that way until marriage. But they don’t have to be! Had an adult I trusted stepped in and explained to me (after I started) how every “solo” session would damage my future, and how fighting for it is crucial, I wonder how I would have turned up. The first one really hadn’t “soiled” me, but the hundreds/thousands after that sure did a number. I (and my future family) was worth fighting for, and so is this 17-yr-old girl. If only someone had explained that!


  5. Arwen

    Basically what all these come down to is communication. It’s amazing how having an honest, trustworthy, open communication with people can solve a whole lot of problems. Excellent answers, Sheila. I have zero objections.

  6. Cara

    1. I’d leave the daughter alone. And I’d stay out of her drawers (no pun intended) if you don’t like what you will find. I don’t go through my kids’ stuff UNLESS I think they’re in some sort of danger. (Never had to do it but if there was self harm, severe depression, risky behavior online, drugs I would!) I told them this early on!!
    2. I’m not even against cosleeping and that’s weird to me. So weird. He’s using the daughter as a shield from intimacy at best I think. Cosleeping is only ok when both parents are in complete agreement. And when there are other ways intimacy is had. (As in it could be quite interesting and fun if you had to “sneak away”-although long term…yuck)
    3. The comments above are enough said. Not your story, don’t tell it. If you could write it completely anonymously that would be different.
    4. The kid who made the inappropriate comment…idk about “making” him apologize. I’d talk to him until he wanted to apologize I guess. You can’t force someone to be sorry. Although when my daughter was wronged by a boy I made him write her a letter acknowledging that he had disrespected her (so he at least had to think about it) or I told him I’d be talking to his mom. He wasn’t sorry. But he’s not my kid-thankfully.

  7. Praying 4 Better Days

    #1 & #3: Commenting on the similarities of the the parent’s reactions to the new discoveries about their children. Both stories are about parents questioning themselves on whether or not they influenced their child the wrong way. The main issue is…did I mess up by allowing my child to be ignorant to subjects that I’m not comfortable taking about.

    Once your child discovers your little secret, you can’t be surprised:
    • if you don’t have the sex talk…and see a dildo, std or grandbaby
    • by your child swearing like a sailor if you allow them to hear crude language in movies, tv or in person.

    If you haven’t warned your child about something…how can they avoid it when you’re not around to hide it anymore. You can’t let the world teach your kids because whatever they learn wrong it will be hard to unlearn & they might not trust you to teach them the truth now.

    It’s important to realize that ignorance can influence your children. The stuff that you conveniently don’t teach your kids will come back to bite you & child’s rumps. What you don’t teach you child…the world & tv will…thru a distorted lens.

  8. unmowngrass

    I’ve just remembered something that I think is a good parenting rule of thumb in general but that I think is vital in the case of the cosleeping.

    Don’t forget that two years is half of a four year old’s life, though. So I don’t think he’s triangulating given the circumstance. (Unless I misread it and he came back two years ago? Which is a completely different situation.)

    Anyway, my advice is that children do not come in between their parents, physically. So if you’re walking, a child does not get to hold hands with both Mummy and Daddy at the same time. Mummy and Daddy will be holding hands with each other and the child needs to choose a side to hold hands with only one parent. Same goes for sitting in church or a restaurant, etc, and particularly for cosleeping. (Parent and grandparent, however is an entirely different matter.) If the child throws a tantrum/runs off/otherwise attempts to take back control by not choosing on the parent’s terms, then they get a five second warning before the parent then chooses for them. Now this particular cosleeping situation will not be solved that easily and the daughter will need to be told in advance and likely reminding frequently, and hubby will need to be brought on board first, even if it’s just for a two week trial to start. Because a father allowing his daughter to behave oedipally is going to be a damage to his wife’s psyche, the one he vowed to love, honour and protect. So that’s important.

    It’s all about relational hierarchy, which — once they’ve gotten used to it — will make everyone feel more secure. I saw on a dog-training TV show that when someone gets in from work, say, they ought to greet their spouse first, then their kids, then wait 20 minutes and then greet their dogs. This seemed like brilliant advice to me, and I would also like to highlight that first part. Spouse first, then kids, every single time. (Assuming that the spouse is not a step parent, of course, which needs a whole other conversation.) Yes, I am saying that an adult ought to walk right past a child clamouring for their attention with nothing more than a small nod (no eye contact) until after they have said hello to their spouse, but at the same time if a child can drop everything to meet a parent at the door, an adult who has vowed to cherish someone ought to be able to do likewise for that person, so it’s a two-way street. Sorry if that got a bit off topic!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s actually a joke I give in my Girl Talk–kiss your husband before you kiss the dog! Absolutely.

    • Mary K

      That’s really sad to me. Children are people, too, and your relationship with your children isn’t less important than your relationship with your spouse. How awful to tell your children they mean less to you. And I find it extremely petty and demeaning that a child can’t be with both parents equally. This kind of “us vs. the kids” approach only hurts.

  9. Noah Scott

    Hey, I’m wondering if your looking at this the wrong way. It may not be related to the traumatizing event but maybe the religious part of it. I know alot of people who are very uncomfortable around family members who have certain beliefs, or are uncomfortable around religious people do to (Whether it be true or false) stories related to people trying to force their religion upon other people. It may be that your daughter is worried you’ll try to force her kids to be Christian (Or Catholic) maybe try and ask if she uncomfortable with your religious belief and if so just don’t bring up god or Christianity (Or Catholicism) up around her children. Of course don’t change your religion. Just don’t bring up religion around the kids.

  10. Clarice A.

    My daughter is 16 and i found two pair of adult size plastic pants between her mattress and boxspring.She told me they belong to a friend who is a bedwetter and that she wears them once in a while to masturebate with!


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