Sex Snafu: What to Do When Your Kid Hears, or Sees, Too Much

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The stars of Modern Family got busted in Season 2. (ABC)

One father’s post on Reddit about his daughter nearly busting in on him and his wife as they were having sex has been getting a lot of action (pun intended) online, with nearly 700 people commenting on it in the first 24 hours. Redditor TuffAdams wrote that his flight-attendant wife of 24 years was home on Thanksgiving after a multiday trip and told their three young children, “You guys get in bed and don’t come downstairs and bother mommy and daddy. We are going to sit on the laptop and do some Christmas shopping for you.” 

Of course the youngest had other ideas. “About halfway through our sexy time, I hear a knock on the door,” Adams lamented. “We immediately stop what we are doing. We are dead silent, hoping whoever it is will go away. Thirty seconds go by and I hear the sweet sound of my precious 8-year-old daughter say, ‘Are you guys still Christmas shopping?’ My wife says, ‘Yes, we are. Go back upstairs.’ My little angel says, ‘Well, all I can hear is AHHH AHHH AHHH AHHH!’”

Related: What Kids Should Know About Their Private Parts

These parents may be scarred for life, but it’s unlikely that their child — or any other kid who overhears his or her parents — will be. “He did not traumatize his child,” child psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells Yahoo Parenting. “Children beginning at age 3 years have imagination. They are capable of attaching their own story content to sound. The 8-year-old may have fantasized Mommy and Daddy reacting to an AMAZING Christmas gift they discovered online shopping!”

Related: Defending the Duggar Parents’ PDA Pic

Getting caught doesn’t have to be a big deal, psychotherapist and parenting educator Andrea Nair tells Yahoo Parenting. It can even be a positive learning opportunity, she adds, if you tailor your response to their age and ask lots of questions.

For preschoolers
Children in this age group may worry that one of the parents is hurt because they are hearing sounds they’ve never heard before, says Nair. So the first thing you need to do is ask if they have any questions. “You don’t want to tell them more than they need to know because you assume they saw more than they did,” she says. “But you also don’t want them asking other people about it, since you may not be OK with the answers they get.” Nair also recommends that instead of lying about the incident, you tell your young children that you were giving each other a “special hug that adults who are in love do.”

For older children 
Honesty is the primary concern. “By sixth grade, kids are typically learning about sex in school, and it can be shocking for them to think that their parents are doing this,” says Nair, who suggests using humor to break the tension in a heart-to-heart about what went down. “So go ahead and joke, ‘We’re busted. How awkward. What are we going to do with this?’ Then ask if they’re concerned about what they saw or heard and if they have any questions.” Just don’t use this episode as a time to talk about the birds and the bees. “You don’t want to link that with the image of your parents,” she explains. “Even if you think that conversation is important, wait a few weeks. If you don’t, kids will have a hard time with their own sexualization because they’ll just be thinking of their parents.”

For teens 
This discussion becomes about house rules. “Teens need to know what you expect in terms of privacy,” says Nair. And if you have an open enough relationship with your kids, she says, you can talk about keeping sex safe and consensual. Sure, it’s an embarrassing episode, the expert acknowledges, but “it’s also an opportunity.” The most important thing is to address what happened, adds Walfish. “The images that caught your child’s mind’s eye will remain in your child’s memory,” she says. “Talking it through helps your child process the information, resolve it, and put it into proper perspective.”

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