Sex: When Are Your Kids Too Old To Be in the Room?

do not disturb
Flickr photo by urbanwoodchuck
Being a parent doesn't have to kill your sex life -- see also the Duggars. 

OK, we apologize for that image, but you get where we're going with this. Plenty of parents make it happen.

But how do you know when you have to wait until the kids have gone to bed and when it's OK to get a little quickie?

Almost 60 percent of parents in a recent CafeMom poll said they would never have sex in front of the kids; almost 30 percent said they'd stop when their kids were still babies.

So The Stir checked in with Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a child psychologist, to see if it's really all that bad to have sex in front of the kids.

So what does she think?

By the time they're toddlers, they're too old for intercourse.

"Babies don't have the cognitive abilities to understand what's happening," Hartstein told The Stir. "As soon as babies can peer over the crib and pay more attention to what is going on, it's time to be more careful.

"Witnessing sexual activity at such a young age can be confusing for a very young child -- he/she doesn't know how to process it," Hartstein says. "Additionally, it can be tough for parents to be intimate with a tiny observer! Generally, I think when your child becomes aware of his/her world, it's time to consider finding privacy for intercourse."

So what about when the toddler walks in?

"It may be very embarrassing for parents, and the good news is, it's not going to scar their children for life," Hartstein says. 

How to react:

  1. Stop what you're doing and ask your child to go back to his or her room.
  2. Follow them into the room immediately.
  3. Ask what they saw. "It may be nothing, and yet you as the parent are primed to launch into a long explanation," Hartstein notes. "Find out what was seen and what the interpretation is. Meet your child where he/she is ... answer any questions in an age-appropriate way."
  4. Tell them it's all OK. "Reassure your child that no one was being hurt and that 'mommies and daddies show their love to each other like this sometimes,'" she suggests.
  5. Talk to them about knocking before they enter a room.

So is all PDA off the table?

Not at all.

"It is so important though for kids to see their parents being affectionate," says Dr. Hartstein. "It teaches them what healthy displays of love are. It also helps kids feel more secure ... it reinforces the love that parents have for one another and teaches kids how to express that in a positive way."

Did your toddler ever walk in?

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