WHAT DID SHE SEE?"
What to do when a child wanders in
You read the kids their bedtime story and put them to sleep a few
hours ago, and now you and your girlfriend are enjoying a little
adult time together-naked. It's tender, it's wonderful, it feels
incredible, but all of a sudden you become aware that you've got
an audience. What do you do?
The first step is to deal with it immediately, even if you think
the child didn't see much. Even brief exposure to intercourse can
be confusing and sometimes harmful to children. Very young kids
can misinterpret entangled bodies and moans of pleasure as a fight
and worry that someone is getting hurt. Older kids who know something
about sex may be put off by the idea that you're a sexual being
or may be aroused by what they've seen and take it as encouragement
to do some experimenting of their own. They also might get the idea
that bringing home a lover is okay for them as well. If your child
walks in on you, here's what to do:
- Don't get angry. Tell him calmly yet firmly to leave
your room, close the door, and go back to his own. Yelling at
him could scare him and make him think that what he saw was wrong.
- If your child won't go, lead him. And if you scared him
off or if he bolted on his own, follow him back to his room.
- Reassure your child. When he's is back in his bed, sit
by his side and tell him that everything is fine and that no one
was hurting anyone else. Mary Mattis, author of Sex and the Single
Parent, suggests telling very young children (under 6 or so) that
you and your lover were just playing together, and that grownups
kiss and hug to be close to each other. But be prepared: Even
little kids know a lot more about sex than we did when we were
their age and they may not be satisfied with such a short answer.
- If she's older than six she might need a more sophisticated
answer about what she saw. She probably already knows that
sex involves putting a penis inside a vagina and that that's how
babies are made. Answer her questions simply and honestly, using
the correct terminology. But don't offer any more information
than she asks for.
- Make sure she knows she can always ask you more later.
You may be trying to keep sex a secret from your children, but
doing so can inadvertently give them the impression that it's
dirty or wrong-precisely the wrong message if you want them to
have a healthy attitude about sex when they're older.
- Don't act embarrassed or ashamed, even if you are. Kids
need to know that having sex is a normal, healthy thing for adults
to do. And don't apologize unless you bit your child's head off
for walking in on you.
- Take some precautions that this won't happen again, such
as putting a lock on your door or using the one you have.
- Sooth your girlfriend.
Your first obligation is to your kids, so you'll need to explain
to your lover that you'll be back as soon as you make sure the
kids are okay. Don't ask her to leave, and try to convince her
to wait for you if she tries to go. When you're through with the
kids, the two of you need to talk. She may be freaked out by the
whole experience, so discuss what you're both feeling. Really
and truly, there's no reason why this little episode should have
any impact on your relationship. It might, though, affect her
desire to sleep at your house again.
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