So Your Kid Caught You Having Sex. What's The Damage Control Protocol?

Keep calm and carry on ... sort of.

by Amber Guetebier
Originally Published: 
Emma Chao/Scary Mommy; Getty Images

You've managed to get the kids in bed, turn off Netflix, and stay awake long enough to finally get busy with your partner. You're in the throes of passionate sex when the door squeaks open, and you hear the dreaded, "Mommy?"

Life with kids comes with lots of tricky situations, and navigating how to maintain a sex life can be one of them. Nothing quite dampens the mood like a kid, but it happens. So what do you do when it happens to you?

The good news is it's perfectly normal to have regular sex with your partner, and it's also pretty common for kids to catch you in the act. That doesn't make it pleasant, but it does mean there's no need to panic if it happens to you. There are a few ways to make it a little less awkward for you and for the kids.

Respond with Humor

When Kate's teenager complained about "hearing sounds" when Kate and her partner were having sex, she offered a near-perfect response. "I told her she should consider herself lucky that her parents still want to do that with each other. (She did not, in fact, consider herself lucky.)," Kate told Scary Mommy.

For Kate, sex was already an open topic in their household, but this incident didn't necessarily lead to a specific discussion. She did share a bit of wisdom for parents: "My new tactic is to have sex when the kids are both out of the house for a while. It makes us both much more uninhibited! Nighttime is a dumb time for sex anyway... during the day, when the kids are guaranteed to be gone, is the sexiest time!"

Use It As a "Teachable Moment"

Pam, whose daughters are 8 and 11, was recently caught in the act. Her kids were not shy about telling her how "gross" and "embarrassing" it was. Her response? "It's not gross, it's actually normal, and someday when you're older, you will moan because you feel good," she explained. "Which, of course, grossed them out more." But Pam also apologized to her daughters for hearing something that should have been private and gently reminded them not to stay up so late during grown-up time. Her advice for parents in a similar boat? "Think of it as a teachable moment," Pam said. "Ask yourself: What age-appropriate lesson can I teach my kid about sexuality and pleasure in this moment?"

Ultimately, keeping it simple and frank is the key. Rather than launch into a big talk about sex, use simple phrases to acknowledge the situation and move on, like:

  • We were having sex, which is something adults do. We keep the door closed because it's private, but we're sorry if you heard us.
  • Yes, you heard us having sex, which is something grown-ups enjoy.

If your children are very young and don't understand what they heard and are worried, reassure them with simple phrases like:

  • It might have sounded like we were hurting each other, but we were having grown-up fun. We're sorry if it scared you.

Make It Part of an Ongoing Dialogue

You can also open the floor to any questions by simply saying, "If you want to know more about sex, we can talk about it," but using the opportunity to launch into a discussion will probably have the opposite intended effect. Dr. Emily Kline, clinical psychologist, mother, and author of The School of Hard Talks: How to Have Real Conversations with Your (Almost Grown) Kids, advises, "I would not recommend using the moment that kids accidentally see something in the home as an opportunity to teach them about sex. Learning about sex is awkward enough without having to immediately picture your parents doing it!"

Dr. Kline advises parents that the best way to handle this kind of situation is to ensure that sex is already an open and evolving conversation in your household. "Keep books describing bodies, puberty, and sex around the house so that kids have a sense of what sex is from a young age," Kline says. She recommends choosing books that reflect the information and values you want to share with your kids and making these books a part of the regular rotation for storytime. "Put them in the collection and read them as bedtime stories mixed in with the fairy tales and books about dinosaurs," Kline suggests. "This really lowers the stakes of one big 'sex talk' and the potential for embarrassment."

In the meantime, those weekday work-from-home lunch breaks might have just gotten a little more interesting.

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