Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Column Archive |  On Twitter: J Huget and MisFits  |  Fitness & Nutrition News  |  RSS Feeds RSS Feed
Posted at 1:29 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Modern Family: When kids walk in during sex

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

I cannot believe that the blogosphere is not buzzing itself silly about last night's (hilarious) episode of ABC's Modern Family, which raised the all-important question: What should parents do if their kids walk in on them during sex?

(If you missed it, here's the link. The key moment occurs at 2:45.)

Characters in the show offered two options for minimizing the psychological damage from such an episode:

a. Have an honest and sincere talk with the kids about what they saw and help them put it into context in an affirming, healthy way.

b. Never say a word about it, recognizing that talking about it will just be that much more embarrassing for all involved.

Both approaches had their moments last night. While the parents whose walking-in-on we witnessed found relief in talking things out with the kids, the success of that strategy was tempered by the fact that the kids had already schemed to completely block out the content of the chat.

But when the woman in that couple confronted her dad about why they had never cleared the air after she, as a child, had walked in on him and his wife during sex, it became apparent that talking things out wasn't all it's cracked up to be, after all. In fact, shutting the door and never mentioning the incident again seemed abundantly sensible.

I've got a call in to a psychologist recommended by the American Psychological Association; I'll update this blog with her comments as soon as I get to speak with her.

I communicated by phone and e-mail with Mary Alvord, a Rockville- and Silver Spring-based psychologist and American Psychological Association public education coordinator for Maryland. Here's her take on the matter (having not, she notes, had opportunity to see Modern Family last night):

First, parents typically find this an awkward and embarrassing situation, even if they have taken precautions to keep this private. If this happens with a teen, it will be dealt differently than if were a young child. Developmental level of the child and knowledge of and previous discussion of sex, all must be taken into account. Also, it depends on what they saw and heard. I would recommend that when a teen catches their parents in the act, that this be discussed later with one or both parents. It should be done in a calm manner. I would explain that it was meant to be a private act, that parents love each other, and this is an expression of love within their relationship. The positive of this event, is that it can open communication about an important and sometimes avoided subject. Opening the discussion clearly gives the message that parent and teen can discuss the topic of sex, that the teen can ask questions about the topic (not necessarily about their parents sex life), and that you as a parent offer that they ask you questions or discuss concerns, rather than only friends or others who might provide inaccurate information.

So, readers, do tell: Has this happened in your family? Did it happen to you when you were a kid? Were you scarred by the experience? Please take a moment to vote in today's poll, and share your tales in the comments section.

This post has been updated with a quote from psychologist Mary Alvord.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | January 20, 2011; 1:29 PM ET
Categories:  Family Health, Kids' health, Life's Big Questions, Parenting, Psychology, Reproductive Health, Sex, Teens  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Wal-Mart moves toward better nutrition
Next: Is that right? McDonald's oatmeal is 'a bowl full of wholesome'?

Comments

Wow -- I guess nobody involved wants to talk about it...

Posted by: jerkhoff | January 20, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

It wasn't me and DH that older son walked in on. It was our housemate and her boyfriend when DH sent our boy upstairs to tell everyone (we had more than one housemate, and our household meals were communal) that dinner was on the table.

The couple froze in the bed, and our then-9-y-o, with autism, just stood in the doorway of her room. And stood there. And stood there.

I bolted up the stairs as soon as I realized what had happened, took him by the hand and walked him out, closing the door behind us.

About 15-20 minutes later, the couple joined us at the dinner table. Nobody said a word about what had happened.

Fast forward nine years, to today. The couple has been married for seven years now, so having the kid walk in on them didn't ruin their relationship. In fact, both boys were ringbearers at the wedding.

When older son started noticing girls a few years later in middle school, we did talk about what he'd seen that day, in a generic way, mostly focusing on privacy, and "private parts" of his and others' bodies.

Younger son has no memory of any of the incident, probably because he was peacefully playing downstairs when it happened.

Posted by: SueMc | January 20, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

What is the big deal?

Posted by: FelixTheCat1 | January 20, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Our 7-yr-old son quietly picked our bedroom lock (always a talent of his) and got an eyeful for a few seconds.

We just told him not to do that anymore, and discussed that parents/adults have sex, that's just how it is.

Wasn't a big deal, just one of many sex conversations we've had with him over the years and will continue to have. Sex is part of life, like breathing and eating and p00ping.

Posted by: spunkydawg1 | January 20, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The best has not been mentioned...Prepare BEFORE it happens. Explain to children the meaning of love, marriage, sex and the expression of those in relations to the mother and father, 'sleeping together' being in the same bed, etc.

When you have failed to do that, then you need to have none of the 'drama' described by some, but make that moment the time when you explain what should have already been done.

The question asked by one writer, 'What's the big deal' has one element of sanity to it...it should not be responded to as a BIG DEAL, unnatural or indecent.

We can get a drivers license with a little study but get married and birth children with none. Marriage and Family courses should abound where there are little or none in schools, colleges, universities, churches and other religious organizations.

Just some good common sense, where it abounds would help.

Posted by: dockennedy | January 20, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The best has not been mentioned...Prepare BEFORE it happens. Explain to children the meaning of love, marriage, sex and the expression of those in relations to the mother and father, 'sleeping together' being in the same bed, etc.

When you have failed to do that, then you need to have none of the 'drama' described by some, but make that moment the time when you explain what should have already been done.

The question asked by one writer, 'What's the big deal' has one element of sanity to it...it should not be responded to as a BIG DEAL, unnatural or indecent.

We can get a drivers license with a little study but get married and birth children with none. Marriage and Family courses should abound where there are little or none in schools, colleges, universities, churches and other religious organizations.

Just some good common sense, where it abounds would help.

Posted by: dockennedy | January 20, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

You know you're going to have a problem when the little unexpected visitor ask mommy why she gets so upset when she sees me sucking my thumb.

Posted by: slim21 | January 20, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I thought the stock answer was something like "mommy and daddy were just wrestling..."

Posted by: ozpunk | January 20, 2011 5:13 PM | Report abuse

> Were you scarred by the experience?

Lets not be silly. Seeing sex _does_not_ harm children. People have been having sex in the same room with sleeping children for thousands of years. One can argue that not seeing sex in barnyards or at home in a loving context does more harm to them. Very young children sometimes mistake vigorous activity and passion for violence and pain and get scared, but simple explanation of 'mommy wasn't being hurt' & 'we were playing' usually work. (BDSM fans may have a bit more of a challenge) :-)
{before you ask, I've raised 2}

Posted by: pcgeorge | January 20, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

What's the big deal? Sex is a natural part of life and kids are going to find out about it soon enough anyway. Only in the puritanical USA would this be seen as a problem.

Posted by: pjs1965 | January 20, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Kids should always say, "Mommy, Mommy--turn on your headlights! Your gorilla is eating Daddy's banana!"

Posted by: taonima2000 | January 20, 2011 8:43 PM | Report abuse

We raised three sons, each about a year and a half apart. We tried to child-proof the house. It didn't work. They always got back in somehow.
We told our kids that we got them at the hospital. My mother told them that they got me when I was crawling across the prairie. My six year old announced a miracle. Two generations reproduced without sex. A six year old girl said that her friend told of finding a condom on a patio. She ran to her mother and asked, "What is a patio?"

Posted by: hurleyvision | January 20, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I never walked in on my parents. I was too busy being angry about the blatant hypocrisy of their jumping on their bed late at night when they wouldn't allow me to do it.

Posted by: carlaclaws | January 20, 2011 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company