My Kid Walked in On Us: How We Began Discussing Sex

discussing sex

It happened.

Something that I only had seen in the movies. That always made me cringe and think, I hope that’s never me.

My 7th grade son walked in on my husband and me, in the bedroom.

I was mortified.

It was late at night. No one should have been awake, but I should have been more careful.

How Handle We Handled it

I did not want to face this conversation about sex. As much as we are a pretty open, non-judgmental family, this crossed way more boundaries than I imagined.

My husband took the “mind your business” approach while I felt that I owed my son some space to discuss what he had witnessed. I collected my emotions, tried to rein in my embarrassment, and went to talk with him. 

There was so much confusion, curiosity, and even worry from him.

I realized that I was absolutely unprepared for this situation. And also didn’t know how to help a middle schooler understand that partner intimacy goes way beyond the biological “sex talk.” I had no idea how to set boundaries and how to avoid oversharing.

A few weeks later, I found an expert to help me navigate what had happened. Dr. Caitlin Pollestad is a local licensed psychologist and certified sex therapist, and she passed on some valuable information on how to approach the topic of sex and intimacy with kids.

Here is what I learned.

Tips on Discussing Sex and Intimacy with Kids

1. Reflect on your culture and values.

Most of the conversations that you have with regard to sex and intimacy are dependent on your culture and values. Consider this ahead of time, and think about how you and your partner may have been raised differently. As a result, this may change the approach for you and your children. Every family is unique in what they discuss and it’s good to be on the same page.

2. Discussing sex and awkward topics like this leads to healthier outcomes.

According to Dr. Pollestad, addressing topics like teen’s perspectives on sex, age at having sex, practicing safe sex, and having positive sexual experiences have more positive outcomes according to research, when parents leave the door open to conversations about sex.

3. Kids are curious.

While it might seem like common knowledge, kids can ask weird questions because they don’t understand some of the ways people culturally interact regarding very private experiences. And that’s healthy and normal. Talking about it in a safe way, that also respects boundaries, can create an open line of communication and can help your child feel safe in situations they don’t understand.

4. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.

One question my son kept asking me was, “You aren’t going to have more babies so why would you do that?”

While I know that sex is way more than a biological process, I wasn’t up for explaining that at 11:00 p.m. I told him that sex can be an expression of love between two people. He continued to push further in an effort to understand. And I responded saying that there are things he is too young to comprehend and reassured him everyone was safe, no one was hurt, and things were okay.

Dr. Pollestad stated, “Model honesty and transparency and validate their concerns or questions. You can also filter healthy and appropriate information to them and think about what you may want to convey. If there are questions you don’t want to answer, state that. Again, it models boundaries and healthy communication (e.g. ‘I don’t feel comfortable sharing that’ or ‘I’m not ready to discuss that’).”

This validated my response of setting personal boundaries of what I was ready and not ready to get into. Not all these big conversations need to happen at once. If you need to pause, pause. And if you need more resources, seek them out.

5. Kids need help understanding uncomfortable topics.

As I mentioned before, kids are curious and as such often learn about more private topics from their friends — whether that information is accurate or not. And gathering inaccurate information from unhealthy sources can lead to older kids misunderstanding what is healthy and safe, even in their own relationships. 

I realize we cannot control every minute of our children’s lives and given the choice between controlled exposure and not, I choose to be open and support my boys in conversations — regardless of the discomfort.

The conversation about sex evolves and what was a purely biological conversation in 5th grade is very different in middle school. And I would rather play offense than defense in fielding inaccurate or potentially harmful information from friends. 

It’s Not Going to Be Easy

The bottom line is nothing about parenting is easy. As such, there are many times you feel like you’re coasting along enjoying the scenery when life hits you like a freight train.

Parenting tweens is challenging and I imagine will continue to be so as my boys grow into young men. And I hope these tips can help you get through one of the more awkward parts of parenting.

And if you need a good resource to understand more about sexual health information and ways to discuss this with your child, I found this post to be very helpful, Talking to Kids About Sex & Gender: An Age by Age Guide.

What are your thoughts on navigating these sensitive topics and discussing sex? Let us know in the comments below.

For more on parenting tweens, read Unpopular Parenting Post: I Let My Tween Have Social Media.
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