My Child Walked In On Me Having Sex!

Teaching concepts of intimacy to your child.

Posted Oct 07, 2019

This is every parent’s nightmare.  But it can be a teachable moment about intimacy in relationships.  Although it is normal for children to go through developmental stages where they engage in sexual exploration or flirtatious behavior, it is important for all adults and older siblings in the house to maintain appropriate boundaries.  Children should never engage in or watch family members engage in sexual behavior. Lock the bedroom door. Turn on loud music so that nothing can be heard outside the door. Lock your sex toys in a safe.

But What if Your Child Still Accidentally Walks in on You Having Sex?

How you handle the situation, of course, will depend on the specific circumstances, the age of the child, and the relationship you have built up to that point.

No matter what age your child is at the time, do not yell, get angry, or act ashamed.  Sex is natural, and just because adults have a need for privacy does not mean that sex is shameful. Kids pick up immediately on your emotional reactions, and the weirder you act, the more fearful or “grossed out” they will be.

If you’ve established boundaries that allow for privacy, the first response would be to address why these boundaries were overstepped.  Was there a knock on the door? Why wasn’t the door locked? Reiterate the importance of respecting an adult’s privacy. But also acknowledge your own responsibility if you forgot to lock the door or didn’t remember that school was letting out early.

If a young child walks in, say “Please go back to your bedroom.  We are fine but we need privacy right now.” The incident might be forgotten, but if they ask later what you were doing, answer honestly:  “We were having sex, which is what grown-ups do when they care about each other. But we need privacy, so that is why we lock the door or close it.  And that is why you should always knock.” Hopefully, your child should already understand what sex is, but if not, this is definitely the time to broach that topic!  

Appropriate responses do not change much over the years.  Even with older children, from age ten through the teen years, you should first state that you need privacy.  If they ask later if you were having sex, honesty is again appropriate. You can also address the embarrassment that is likely during these years:  “I know it must be weird for you to walk in on, but someday you will appreciate that your parents have a healthy sex life.”

The situation becomes far more complicated if your child walks in while you are with someone they would not expect.  Young children should never be asked to keep secrets for a parent, even in situations with dire consequences, because they are psychologically unprepared for such a responsibility.  

Even if you are going through a divorce, you should always be the one to inform the other parent if your child sees you with another partner. You will also need to explain to your child that you are sorry that they found out about such a complicated adult situation this way, that you made a mistake, and that you meant to introduce the relationship differently.  

After the initial shock has passed, you may want to plan an outing to introduce the new partner in a completely different environment — going out for ice cream, visiting a park, or going to a local fair, for example.

Make this a teachable moment by explaining that sex is a great way for couples to connect with each other in a unique way.  

“When we have sex its good for our relationship and when we are happy this is good for you and our family. Someday when you are ready, you will also be able to share this wonderful experience with your future partner.  It’s an important part of being happy as an adult." 

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