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Recently, my husband and I were bantering back and forth playfully as we were making dinner, and our younger son told us not to get into a fight.
I laughed and said, "Oh, but if we get into a fight, that means we can make up! You know. A little romance."
I then made annoying kissing noises, hugged my husband and giggled privately in his ear some crazy thing I would do later to him in bed.
(Insert the 13-year-old's eye-roll here).
Whenever Rand and I are playfully affectionate with each other in front of our boys, they respond as if they are in complete disgust.
Obviously, they have never seen us having sex. Even so, I guarantee they are still getting plenty of messages about sex from us -- not just the age-appropriate ongoing conversations we've been having with them about sex, but also the positive sexual nuances they see between us.
Is it healthier for kids to grow up seeing their parents appropriately show sexual affection or to see their parents show little or no affection? The answer seems obvious when put that way.
Let me tell you a little story.
For a long time (crazy long time) when I was a young adult, I carried in my wallet a photo of my mom kissing my dad on the cheek. The photo obviously was from before they were divorced, but ironically I didn't start carrying it around until I came across it when I was a teen or in my early 20s.
They'd probably been divorced for at least 6 or 7 years by then.
I don't know what all was going on behind my decision to stick that photo in my wallet. But my now fully grownup self thinks it probably had something to do with this childlike desire to know that at some point my parents did love each other. Even if I knew it logically, the visual seemed to resonate deeper.
When you and your husband show affection to each other in front of your kids, including affection that is discreetly sexual, you're not only helping them now, you're likely giving them skills to build healthy sexual intimacy in their marriage someday.
It can be a slippery and damaging slope if a house revolves around the parent/child relationship rather than the husband/wife relationship.
Kids start out these helpless dependent creatures. It can be hard for them to shed that relentless dependence, even shocking for them to eventually discover that there is a dynamic about their parents that really has nothing to do with the little tykes in the house.
But that's the healthy truth, right?
The relationship you and your husband have needs to be defined first by your covenant of love and intimacy, not by your role as a parent. Practically, we see the fall out if this is flipped around. Every marriage counselor would be able to spot the problem a mile away because of how glaring the fall out is.
This is one reason I am a big fan of kids sleeping in their own rooms. Hear me out before you assume I don't have a heart for my children. I'm not saying our kids never came into our bed or room if they were sick or tired or scared. But for the vast majority of the time, our bed has been about us.
I held to that boundary, because I needed our marriage bed to be about us. With everything in me, I needed that.
This boundary should extend to other areas of your relationship, too. It's healthy that you go out on dates and that you maintain reasonable bed times for your kids so you and your husband get time alone. And barring declarations of some sort of emergency, insist that your children leave you alone if you and your husband need some time to talk.
You are someone beyond being a "mom" and "dad," and your kids need to know this and see it.
Another vital message...
God is so gracious in how He designed sexual arousal, pleasure and oneness. Sadly, too many kids never hear their parents speak authentically about this. No, I'm not talking about telling them the details of your own sexual encounters.
I am talking about giving voice to the reality that sex is amazing in the right context of marriage. It is healthy for your kids to hear you make positive statements about sex. Once you have told your kids what sex actually is, they are then old enough to also hear you say things like...
"Sex is an important part of our marriage."
"God is happy about mom and dad having sex."
"Sex is one of the best ways dad and I show we love each other. If you get married, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do."
I know. All of that sounds so awkward, but that's only because we have sadly made it taboo to talk to our kids about even the healthy aspects of sex.
Are you going to continue to gloss over or never mention the positive messages about sex, rather than be direct and honest with your kids? For a funny and insightful read, check out Your Teens Can Hear You Having Sex? Why THAT May Be Totally Fine.
Another message I hope your kids get about sex from seeing appropriate sexual affection between you and your husband...
From the time they can glance around as toddlers sitting in a grocery cart, your kids are learning about sex. Sure, they couldn't identify it as such, but eventually all the puzzle pieces start to fall into place.
And the images, words, magazine covers, sound bytes, TV commercials, songs, nightly news, reality shows, movie trailers, schoolground comments, fashion trends, social media posts and political narratives feed into one another.
We know that society's version of sex is the messed up version, but you certainly wouldn't gather that from everything your kids see and hear from a young age. Yes, we can shield them from some of this through good discernment and limitations.
But discernment and limitations aren't the only way. Do you want to combat the influence that society's skewed, lewd and incomplete sexual messages have on your kids? Start by building positive messages about sex in your own home.
Let your kids see you and your husband being appropriately sexually affectionate with each other. They will likely roll their eyes. They may even offer up their own commentary on how you are grossing them out.
Want some great tips on helping your kids embrace a healthy and godly perspective on sex? Check out these posts:
5 Secrets to Talking to Your Kids About Sex
Who Will Talk to Your Kids About Sex?
Top 10 Mistakes You Can Make When Talking to Your Kids About Sex (Part 1)
Top 10 Mistakes You Can Make When Talking to Your Kids About Sex (PART 2)
Copyright 2018, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.