Can We Make Out In Front Of The Kids?

Dear Mamas,

I am embarrassed to be asking this but I’m really not sure what is appropriate. We have a two-year-old son and I have begun to wonder how much physical affection my husband and I can show each other in front of him. He doesn’t sleep in our room or anything but my husband can get kind of frisky at times! I don’t want to traumatize him! Does he really get it or am I overreacting?

Thanks!
no name please

Dear No Name,
No need to be shy about this question, it’s a great one! And one that parents should take seriously. The short answer is no, you are not overreacting and no, you shouldn’t be making out in front of your kids.

We all tend to think that little children are not really tuned in to what we are doing or saying but they see and understand much more than we give them credit for. And that includes awareness that mommy and daddy are acting funny (to them).

Don’t get me wrong — I am all for parents expressing love and affection for each other. It’s important for kids to see that their parents love each other and can express that love in a physical way. Hugs and kisses, holding hands, sitting close and resting your head on your hubby’s shoulders are all wonderful ways to show it.

BUT — there is a world of difference between a kiss that is warm, affectionate and a maybe even a little romantic and one that is passionate and sexual.

When it comes to sexual behavior between parents it can get pretty weird for kids. There is the creepiness factor to consider. Just think for a moment: how you would feel if your parents began to make out in front of you? How would that go down? Would you be comfortable? Or, what if your teenaged daughter began locking lips, moaning and playing tongue twister with her boyfriend while you were all watching Friday Night Lights together? Need I say more?

So why would it be differrent for your own kids? The truth is that it isn’t. When children begin to learn the facts of life via “the birds ‘n bees talk” they are uniformly horrified to think that they arrived on the planet because their parents “did it”! It takes time for them to accept that, like it or not, their parents are sexual beings. They don’t need you reminding them of that fact.

These days kids are being overexposed to overt sexual behavior and sexualized images at alarming rates. Whether it’s seen on T.V., the internet or in ads from stores like Aberchrombie and Fitch (practically soft kiddie-porn going on there) it’s in their faces constantly. And it is NOT good for them.

You have to be the role model who teaches them how to be in a healthy, loving relationship that is respectful and appropriate. And sexual behavior should be expressed in private.

But I also encourage you to keep the passion alive in your marriage. Once kids come along that can take some planning and patience but it’s important to do so. Go on dates, send love notes and flowers and show your spouse that he is still the one who makes your heart beat faster. Just make sure you don’t have an audience on hand when you do.

It’s also important to teach your children early that mommy and daddy need their privacy, so when the bedroom door is shut they must knock before they barge in. They can understand this by the time they are three. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if there is an emergency or they are ill. But they need to learn about boundaries and privacy and it’s never too soon to start.

One more thing — for those of you who advocate “the family bed” please remember what you are choosing to give up when you make the decision to share your sleeping space with your children. No messing around allowed! So you will have to be extra clever in finding the appropriate time and the place to “connect”  with your honey.

We love getting all of your questions and want to give you everything that our combined brains have to offer. So keep sending them in! But if you are looking for a more personal touch with lots more detail and follow up, please visit us at AskMamaEllen.com and AskDrMama.com. and find out how to get the royal treatment. You deserve it, Mamas!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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One response to “Can We Make Out In Front Of The Kids?”

  1. kira leigh

    thank you for this..we were just discussing how much is appropriate.. our daughter is 11 months (walking fully since 9 months and always been advanced in the awareness department) and she laughs when we kiss passionately in front of her. she also will come over to us and grab at our pants legs and such..
    anyway..glad i read this in time before things got too weird for her :)

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