Your parents have sex. Even if they’re old, or not together — and it’s not with each other — they’re still having it. maybe even right now (sorry). If you’ve been as lucky as they have, you haven’t caught them in the act, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
You may have accidentally walked in on them when you were growing up, but catching your parents as an adult? Well, that will make you wish you were too young to understand. Here’s how to cope.
Exit the situation
This may seem obvious, but it’s very possible you’ll just stand there, unable to think or move, brain not comprehending what your eyes are seeing. Pull yourself together and exit the room like it’s on fire (it kind of is). This is not the time or the place to freeze up, so GTFO ASAP.
Don’t take it personally
All parents are different, but yours are probably not some exhibitionist creeps who wanted to get caught. You’re not a victim for catching them, even if you might be traumatized momentarily. What happened has nothing to do with you; everyone is embarrassed here.
Refuse to address it
Your parents don’t know how to handle this either, so they might make the mistake of trying to talk about it. They’ll attempt to make themselves feel better about the situation by joking about it, or worse, asking if you have any questions. You’ll only ask one: “Can you not?“
The same type of absurd explanations parents offer their kids when caught — they were just playing their special game, or doing grownup CPR — are going to come in handy now. Instead of watching them struggle through an explanation, just rattle off some b.s. about how you were sleepwalking, in the middle of the day, when you came by to do your laundry.
You all have reasons for why it didn’t happen, even though it totally happened. Your parents don’t have to believe you, and you don’t even need to believe yourself, but everyone welcomes a little context.
Talk about it with your friends
You can’t talk about this with your parents, because it’s too gross, so you have to open up with other people. Your friends will all lend sympathetic and disgusted ears. Maybe they’ve gone through something similar, and you won’t feel so alone after hearing about it. Or they’ll just make fun of you (and your horny parents), and laughing along with them will help.
All right, no more denying it. Your parents still make love. And that’s a good thing! No one wants to actively think about it, but in a big picture sense, sex is a healthy part of adult relationships. That doesn’t make it any less shocking to catch a glimpse of, but you can appreciate the greater good behind it. You want your parents to be happy, right?
Applying what you’ve learned
Now you know you can get through any mortifying situation, but more importantly, you’ve learned that parents are people too. Many adult children (myself included) walk around their parents’ homes like they own the place, even when they don’t live there anymore. Your parents can do whatever they want now that you’re grown up, so when you really think about it, why wouldn’t they?
Respect your elders enough to assume they’re still enjoying themselves — and then always knock first.
For teens, the idea of their parents having sex can be very upsetting.
- The Fundamentals of Sex
- Find a sex therapist near me
This is a very embarrassing topic for me but I really need to get this off my mind. Let me first tell you that I am a 17-year-old girl and I have a 12-year-old brother and a 14-year-old sister. We each have our own rooms but mine is (guess what) right next door to my parents’ bedroom. Well, last weekend, I overheard my parents having sex. This is the second time I have overheard them and I can’t stand it. I don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to think about it or even picture it. The idea of my parents having sex really bothers me.
I’m not sure how to approach my parents about this. I’m not even sure if I should talk to them about this. My parents have tried to talk to me about sex in the past but I am very uncomfortable discussing sexual topics with them. I learned about sex in school health classes, books, and friends. By the way, I am not yet sexually active. I am curious but I am not ready yet.
Please help me figure out what to do.
I am so happy that you reached out to me. You and many other teens have brought this issue to my attention over the years. First, let me tell you that, of course, you don’t want to hear your parents having sex. I don’t think that anyone of any age wants to hear their parents having sex. Nor is anyone particularly comfortable with that thought or visual.
On the other hand, your parents are entitled to have a sexual relationship and I hope that their sexual intimacy is part of a good and healthy relationship. It is unfortunate that your room is so close to theirs and you are within earshot of their most intimate moments.
So we have two things going on here. A teen girl uncomfortable hearing her parents being intimate and two parents next door who seem to have a vibrant relationship. The question is how to make everyone happy and comfortable. I think that other than blasting music in your room or covering your ears, you really should find a way to talk to your parents. I am quite sure that they are unaware that they are being overheard.
You said that you are uncomfortable talking to your parents about sex. Now, you have an excellent opportunity to work on this discomfort and open up the dialogue about sexuality. I suggest that you talk to either both of your parents or the one you are more comfortable with about your discomfort hearing their private activities. Take deep breaths while you present this. I know how uncomfortable this topic is likely to make you. Your parent(s) may surprise you by being very sensitive to your discomfort. In addition, I am sure that they will then come up with a plan to muffle sounds in their room.
I hope that a good thing emerges from this situation. Perhaps, sexuality won’t feel like such a tricky topic for you after you break the ice with this conversation. I would really like to hear how this conversation goes and how your parents respond. I am sure that your parents will come up with a solution. And, after this discussion, perhaps you and your parents can open up the dialogue about other tricky topics.
Let's face it. If we all had to go through life without hearing our parents have sex, we'd probably be better people. Although, Lady Gaga did say she grew up in an apartment with no doors and heard her dad doing the nasty all the time, and she's doing pretty well for herself (save for the fact that it probably takes her five hours to get dressed like a balloon). I can only hope for the same for a teenage girl who called the cops on her mom when she heard her with her boyfriend.
Teenage girl with fingers in ears and eyes closed
The Smoking Gun reports that a 15-year-old Florida girl called 911 last week when she heard her mom having sex with her boyfriend (not the girl's boyfriend—that would be a whole other post). It was 4 A.M. when the teen called to report a domestic disturbance, telling the cops she wanted to go to a local shelter because she felt "disrespected." She ended up not going because "it was almost time for school."
Poor thing. I can sympathize. Even as an adult who gets that her parents are sexual beings, I want to hide under the bed just *thinking *about it! It sounds to me like this Florida girl has other issues with her mom besides overhearing her do it. Maybe she was upset that her dad was no longer in the picture, or maybe she was angry because her mom wasn't spending enough time with her? All speculations, of course, but something tells me there's more to this story.
I have my own memories that I prefer to keep buried deep down inside. And it never occurred to me to call the five-o! (Though, the thought of the cops banging down the door and interrupting my parents mid-thrust is kinda funny; I'll give her that). I wasn't angry, I was disturbed! Majorly. Thankfully, I never walked in on my parents sexing it up, but I heard noises, and that was way more than enough for my fragile soul.
__Here's a squeamish thought for you: Have you ever heard your parents having sex? Have you ever walked in on them? What did you do? What do you think about the teen calling the cops on her mom?
Imagine your stereotypical conversation between a parent and teen about sex. Several things come to mind, don’t they? You may be conjuring up images of parents saying their teens should wait until marriage to have sex, or at least use condoms, or if the parent is particularly contemporary, they may offer to come along to their daughter’s OBGYN appointment and have in-depth conversations about consent with their teens. Keep on thinking, and you can certainly also imagine talks about making sure the teen closes the door when they have (self-)sex.
What do all these things have in common? Right — it’s that the parent and teen are discussing the teen’s sex life. This is awkward enough, to be sure. A Planned Parenthood survey reveals that half of all teens and close to 20 percent of parents feel really quite uncomfortable having these sorts of talks.
What if you’re a teen who’s knowledge of your parent’s, or parents’, sex life goes far beyond “hey, I’m around so they must have done it?”, though? What if your parents, or one of them, are so loud during their very normal and healthy sex life that you can hear it all? What if you walked in on your parents having sex? Or even — what if your parents are really casual about nudity and you are feeling uncomfortable?
Let’s go back to the previous scenarios. If your mom or dad heard you have sex, or walked in on you having sex, or even just had the vaguest suspicion that you may be having sex, it would be awkward, but they’d probably talk to you about it. Right? As natural, normal, and mind-blowing as sex is, modern societies have also evolved to see it as private. Your parents have all sorts of ideas about the sex you should or should not be having, but whatever moral or religious bent they have, they’ll not want to see it up close.
As a teen, you should have the same right to avoid seeing your parents’ sex life up close. If they leave the door open when they think you’re asleep, or walked into some kitchen action when they thought you wouldn’t be home for another few hours, or your home has unusually thin walls, or your parents are just really loud — approach them. “Hey, I don’t want to see or hear that again, please tone it down!”, might work. A letter may work. Turning your music up really loud when you can hear them may work. It all depends on your family culture, but in any case, you can certainly try communicating your discomfort!
Now For The Taboo Topic
Some SteadyHealth readers reported that they became aroused upon hearing their parents have sex. As a teen, it’s quite possible that any and all encounters with sex are interesting to you, and that you will have some physical and mental responses to that. You are almost certainly aroused by the thought of having sex yourself, rather than the thought of your folks getting it on. There is nothing wrong with you, but you should probably still ask them to tone it down some — and find different outlets for your budding sexuality.
When it comes to your list of worst sex nightmares, someone walking in on you is probably pretty high up there. Depending on the person, your immediate emotional response may vary between, “I really wish I had Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak right now,” and, “Are they still taking applications for that one-way trip to Mars?” For minimal mortification for everyone involved, focus on etiquette. “Etiquette is about putting others at ease,” says Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette expert. “It’s especially applicable in this situation because the other person will likely have an immediate feeling about what they just saw.” Read on for how to handle this freaky scenario with four different people in your life.
RELATED: We Asked 19 Etiquette Experts if It’s Rude to Have Sex When You’re Staying with Friends
Whether you get back to the action or not, when you walk out of the room to talk to your parents, you should look as impeccable as you would for a job interview. No bed-head, smudged makeup, or wrinkled clothes unless you want your parents to have a vivid reminder of what they just saw. Make it a point to address them with your partner, but you do the talking. “Apologize and explain it won’t happen again,” says Greer. “If they’re disappointed in you, you can acknowledge that and be understanding.” At the same time, you were being an adult and making a grown-up choice, says Greer. Because of that, it doesn’t call for an overwrought conversation. A simple apology then conversation switch is due diligence enough.
RELATED: Have More Spontaneous Sex
If you know they’ll be offended, a formal apology can help. Even if you’re nervous about their reaction, you should still present a united front by showing up to apologize together. “Doing this will bring you closer because you’ll be working as a team and dealing with conflict together,” says Greer. “It will strengthen you as a couple in the face of adversity.” This time, your partner should be the one speaking up. “Any judgment or lectures will likely be directed at him since he’s talking,” says Swann. Plus, his parents will probably be easier on him than they would be on you.
The exception to this rule is if that other friend happens to be a roommate who caught you going at it on the kitchen table or some other shared piece of furniture. “In that case, apologize and say it got out of hand and will never happen again,” says Swann. Offer to wipe down (and disinfect) every surface a bare butt touched as an olive branch.
If you hopped in the car for a quickie only to have a surprised passerby get an eyeful, pretend nothing happened. “You don’t owe a stranger any explanation, and you don’t want to get involved in a public conversation about your private life,” says Swann. If you see them when you’re done having sex, good etiquette in this situation actually means acting like you had a great session. “You don’t want them to think you were being assaulted in any way,” says Swann. As for moving on in your relationship, chalk it up to a fun, crazy experience. “The more you can make light of it and laugh it off, the better,” says Greer. “Realize it will become a great story to tell later.”
I asked this question here Some strategies for maintaining adult relationships separately from children? Which needed to be broken into two questions.
2 Answers 2
I think it depends more on the attitude of the parents and the child’s disposition and age than on the actual witnessing (and maybe, how kinky things were when the viewing took place). I didn’t find any online aricles with a scientific study on the matter or anything (how would you even go about a study like that really?) but I did find This article which goes into a little more detail than I do here.
My parents were always very open about things with me so when, on my twelth birthday a friend and I accidentally came across two adults in the act on the dock at the local swimming hole where I was about to have my party. Mom knew just from looking at me that I’d seen something and simply said, “You’ve just seen a matched pair haven’t you?” She didn’t even bat an eyelash about it, just very matter-of-fact almost as though every kid runs into such a moment eventually. Dad went and warned the couple (who were just the other side of the trees from where the picnic tables were) that there was about to be twenty some odd pre-teen girls arriving so they might enjoy another location more while mom simply followed up her first statement with, “any questions?” I think she must have called the other girl’s mom during the party to let my friend’s mom know what we had seen, but I don’t remember her making a big deal about it at all.
When my sister and I stumbled on some old nudie pics dad had of mom (which I’ll grant you is not the same thing as seeing them in the act), I laughed about the matter. My sister (three years younger and much shier by nature) was totally grossed out, but niether of us were traumatized and it is sort of a family joke now.
On the other hand, my husband’s family rarely discussed sex at all. So, when my youngest sister-in-law walked into her parent’s house at the age of 20 and heard “noises” she dropped her bags, turned and ran from the house and spent the night at a friend’s. She is still freaked out enough by the whole thing that if her siblings bring it up she goes cherry red and pretty much clams up for the rest of the time we are together despite the fact that she didn’t actually see anything and she was already sexually active herself. My mother-in-law apparently hasn’t figured out why this daughter’s bags arrived before the daughter herself (yea right).
So here is what I suggest:
- If you are walked in on and it is a kid old enough to know what is going on, that kid will probably leave (as in your case). Don’t race down the hall after him. Instead, get your clothes back on, compose yourself and take a deep breath. Then, walk down the hall and just say, “Hey, I know you just came in and saw what we were doing. I’m sorry you saw such a private moment, but if you would like to talk about it we can.” Then you are opening the door but not pushing anything. With younger kids that stay and have questions for you, I’d say, “we were having a private moment (insert child’s name) I’d like a minute or so and then I’ll come in and we can talk more about what you just saw” That way you are buying yourself a minute or two to regain composure, come down off the oxytocin high and be ready to anser questions at a develpmentally appropriate level.
- Tell it like it is – don’t lie. Even a primary school kid can understand. “Mommy and Daddy were having sex. This is something grown-ups do when they are married (or whatever limit you want to put on it – after they are -insert age here- or when they are ready for kids. . . ) However, it is something adults like to keep to themselves like going potty or having a shower so I am sorry we didn’t have the door locked.” It is important to not make the child feel he/she did anything wrong. “Do you have any questions about what you saw?”
- Try not to act embarassed about it. Sex is a natural act and you want your kids not to feel badly about it when it is the right time for them to engage – eventually – so treating it as a normal and natural thing is healthy for everyone.
Kids will be grossed out (at least a little) because it is only natural to want to think of your parents as sexless beings who just happen to be the only people who ever actually got a delivery (or deliveries) from the stork. I just don’t think it has to be traumatizing unless you treat it as if it is.
This question is about how to go about having the post- “whoops” moment talk with a teen.
Your kid just walked in on you. Here’s how to survive this awkward scenario with minimal emotional scarring.
Rebecca Eckler February 13, 2019
A shiver still goes up my spine when I think of the night, 31 years ago, that I heard my parents doing it. I was nine. I never saw anything, but the sound of their moans is still with me today.
Last year, my eight-year-old caught my fiancé and I doing it. She just walked into the room early one evening, before her bedtime. My fiancé ran into the bathroom, yelling, ‘I’m just taking a shower!” as my daughter asked, “What are you guys doing?” I answered with the first thing that came to mind. “We were wrestling!”
The answer seemed to satiate her. (But not me—I was mortified.) How did we handle it? I took her to her bedroom and we read a story. We never mentioned the incident again.
Some kids this age are mature enough to know that they shouldn’t barge into a bedroom without knocking. Eve Vawter, a mother of four kids, says, “My children have all knocked on my door when we’re having sex and we’ve replied with the same excuse so many times that it’s now our code name for sexy adult time.” Her euphemism? “We’re busy doing taxes.” If and when her children figure out that grown-ups don’t need to file taxes multiple times during the week, she says she is “totally screwed.”
Jane Guild’s* two kids were six and eight when they caught her and her husband doing the deed. Her husband’s panicked response? “Mommy and I are playing horsey!”
“The funny thing is,” says Guild, “the kids then jumped on the bed on top of us—they wanted to play, too!” She doesn’t think her children realized what was really going on, not yet having had the birds-and-bees talk in full detail. To prevent a repeat incident, her husband recently put locks on their bedroom door.
Why don’t more parents, including me, put locks on bedroom doors? It’s most likely because we want our children to have access to us. Hanna McDonough, a psychotherapist who deals with family and couple issues, says she doesn’t understand why parents don’t ensure their own privacy. “It’s too late once the kids walk in. Adults should have proper management with their sex life and that includes putting locks on doors.”
After one too many times being interrupted, Sarah Lawrence* and her husband, who have four children, have taken another approach to sex when the kids are home—the truth. “We say it in a joking way: Mom and Dad need some alone time. Mostly they are like, ‘Eww.’ But they don’t come in and don’t bother us.”
So what do you do if it happens to you? Don’t pretend to be clueless or act like it never happened. As awkward as it may be, you should talk it through. McDonough is a strong believer in the truth—no one should feel ashamed of sex. “Parents carry around the thought that they shouldn’t be doing this. If you just disappear and say nothing, then sex becomes a secret, and children don’t like secrets.”
Anna Toth, a marriage and family therapist, says that kids are not necessarily traumatized by witnessing their parents having sex. “They may be shocked, or they might even think you’re fighting. Kids can come to all sorts of conclusions.” There could be many different ways to explain it, depending on your child’s level of knowledge. “Most children at this age do have some understanding of sex,” says Toth. Try saying something along the lines of, “This is why the door is closed. This is how we show we love each other as adults, in adult relationships.”
*Names have been changed.
A version of this article appeared in our February 2013 issue with the headline “Caught in the act,” p. 48.
Query: I am mother to a 13-year old. Me and my son, we share everything and I am glad that we have such an open and honest relationship with each other. However, me and my husband haven’t had the sex talk with him yet. We thought we will wait till he turns a little older, when he is a little comfortable and more aware. One day, he was home alone and I just came back home from the market when I caught him touching his private parts. He got scared seeing me and avoided me all through the day. I tried talking to him but he went away from the room. I do not want him to think of masturbation as a bad thing but the way things are right now, he has shut himself out ever since that moment. What do I do now? As a parent, what should I tell my child about masturbation? I do not want our relationship to get spoiled. – By anonymous
Response by Dr. Sameer Malhotra:
It’s great that you share an honest relationship with your son. It’s quite common that parents hesitate to discuss sensitive topics pertaining to sexuality with their children. They underestimate what the child knows or is capable of knowing. Your son is an adolescent; an age marked with pubertal growth, hormonal upsurge and curiosity. It is a stage of transition from asexuality to sexuality. Touching and exploring one’s private parts is also a part of normal development.
It is important to discuss about the natural growing up process with your son. He may be more comfortable discussing the same with your husband. A few suggestions for your husband:
-As a parent, our purpose is to resolve mystery, confusion and shame around the issue.
-The parental approach should be empathic and open ended.
-Make the child feel that it is quite natural to have such feelings, and that it’s a part of natural growing process, so he should not feel guilty about it. At the same time it should not become an obsession and the only way to seek gratification/pleasure.
-Assure him that as a parent you have been through the growing process and would like to clear his concerns. Assure him that you are a safe source of information and that he can choose to talk about the same whenever needed.
-Use it as an opportunity to make him aware about sexual hygiene and safe practice.
-Encourage him into sports, creative hobbies to help him channelize his energy towards constructive goals.
-For the time being don’t force the conversation on him. First try to normalize the environment discussing neutral topics. Get rid of your own inhibitions and fears in approaching the topic, at the opportune time. Use it as a golden opportunity to provide him with sex education.
Dr. Sameer Malhotra is the Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Hospitals.
It will likely happen. Here are the rules of engagement.
For a second there, life was pretty good. You and your special lady friend were intertwined and doing what came naturally at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday. Then, a frightened little voice rang out from the corner of the room and hit you like a bucket of ice water. Suddenly, you have to make a hairpin turn from super freak to super dad.
Having your young child see you mid-pump? You may have some ’splainin to do, but Deborah Roffman says it doesn’t have to be a crisis. Roffman has advised parents and kids alike on sex and human sexuality since 1971, both in her work as a sexuality educator at the Park School of Baltimore, and as an author of Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person About Sex. According to her, the first thing you need to do is relax — calm responsiveness is the key to diffusing this classic awkward situation. Otherwise you’ll say something dumb, like: “We were just practicing Tae Kwon Do.” That’ll haunt you later — when the Tae Kwon Do instructor calls to find out why your kid is dry-humping the punching bags.
Pull Up the Sheet and Contain the Situation
Your first instinct after being caught mid-hump will be to get less naked. That’s fine, but don’t let your body language send the wrong signals. Even though you’re startled, you have to force yourself to chill out. Otherwise, your kid will pick up on your anxiety and think something terrible has happened. Channel your inner Fred Rogers and, with your most measured tone, explain the reason for your initial reaction. “Say, ‘We were really surprised to see you there. We thought we were alone, and we probably reacted in a very strong way that you saw,’” advises Roffman.
Try to Judge Your Kid’s Emotions
Figure out what brought your child into your room. Were they seeking comfort after waking from a nightmare? Investigating the dying Rhino sounds coming from your room? Whatever the case, read your kid’s emotions and temper the conversation to that. “The important thing to do is look at the child’s face if you can,” says Roffman. They may be confused, frightened, or just kind of weirded-out. “If you have the presence of mind to do that, it will guide the conversation.”
Shift Down to Dad Mode
If the kid is scared after seeing your sweaty bodies (hence your “mirrors in the bedroom” rule), Roffman says ask them to come into the bed for a reassuring hug. Yes, this seems like a gross move, considering the business that was happening a second ago. But business hours are over, baby. You’re setting the tone for this situation. Remember, your kid’s perspective of what was happening is vastly different from yours. It’s only weird if you act like it’s weird — which is also good advice when you resume activities.
If you’re uncomfortable with giving hugs in that exact moment, defer the conversation slightly. “You could send the child to their room and say you’ll be there in 30 seconds,” she says. “That might feel more comfortable from your perspective. Not only does this create a clear mental boundary between kinky time and kiddie time, but it also gives you time to stash your riding crops, handcuffs, and Eyes Wide Shut masks.
The Right Words to Say
The key to managing this moment is to collect yourself and say something. You can breathe into a paper bag afterward. “The first thing a parent can say is that they are having some private time with each other, so if you can leave and close the door, that would be great,” says Roffman. “It can be as simple as that.” Your success will vary with the age of your kid. A 6-year-old will have a more sophisticated understanding of privacy than a 4-year-old.
Resist the Temptation to Lie
When you do have that talk, be straightforward. Don’t concoct a cover story. Your kid has seen WWE matches, and if you and mommy were “wrestling,” you have a pretty weak finishing move. Dishonesty does nothing but set a bad precedent about your truthfulness. “That’s more like denial on some level,” says Roffman. “It’s saying that what happened didn’t happen. And the child can plainly see that there was more going on than that.”
Be Straightforward About What They Saw
All right, this is where the rubbers meet the road. You might feel like lying through your teeth, but be honest. “It’s important not to teach children anything that they’re going to have to unlearn later,” she says. She suggests telling them something truthful that doesn’t give away a lot of detail. Like, “That’s a reverse piledriver, kids,” would be a good example of something not to say.
The Beginning of a Conversation
Kids are naturally curious, and parents should encourage them to ask follow-up questions — but schedule that press conference after you put on some pants. Some adults think knowing too much about sex too soon can be harmful for children, but the opposite is true. Parents who have ongoing conversations about sex and approach it as a fact of life actually prevent future risky behavior. “Children raised this way postpone first sexual experiences until they have more of a maturity needed to handle it well,” says Roffman. “People who know how to think about something make more cautious, deliberate, and thoughtful decisions.” So, think of your awkward moment now as paying dividends when they’re awkward teens.