Psychotherapist Meredith Abend: All parents fear being "caught in the act" by their children. They also worry about their children being bombarded with pornographic images. But what can a parent do if her child catches her starring in the porno?
While I do not advocate keeping homemade sex tapes readily available in the family movie closet, I do not think that a child seeing your sex tape is as devastating as you might imagine. While I strongly promote protecting kids from images that can overwhelm them (my 2- and 4-year-old have not been to a movie yet), there will be times they will see things we wish they had not.
Problems arise when children view images but do not have the emotional sophistication to understand them or put them into context. If parents can help their kids with this process, the trauma is greatly diminished. When following up with a child after they have been exposed to a parent's sexual interlude, it is crucial to neither condemn your behavior nor shame your child. The most important follow-up is to talk it through and to answer your child's questions in a casual, nonjudgmental, age-appropriate manner. Many studies support the proposition that kids with parents who talk to them about sex are less prone to have multiple partners or partake in sexually risky behaviors later on in life.
Here are some tips:
1) Ask the child what they think they saw and how it made them feel. A 3-year-old may be more concerned with someone being hurt, while a 12-year-old will most likely be disgusted by the idea that their parents even have sex. My rule is, if the child is asking the question, they are ready for an honest answer.
2) Make sure you validate their feelings. If your child was afraid of what they saw, for example, let them know that that's OK.
3) Be honest and specific. Don't be afraid to tell the truth (in an age-appropriate manner), and do not attempt to brush the incident under the rug.
4) Understand that preteens spend a majority of their time worrying about being "normal." Let your preteen know that having sex is normal for parents, and that what they feel after seeing your sex tape is normal, too. If you condemn your behavior, they will tend to condemn their own feelings about it.
5) Exploit this opportunity to share your values with your child. Let your child know your views on what is right and what is wrong.