sex education

[Two Pronged] Our teenage daughter caught my wife and me having sex

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] Our teenage daughter caught my wife and me having sex
'Last night, our teener (14 years old) daughter caught us having sex inside our room. Her room is just beside our room. It's a normal husband/wife sex/lovemaking, but we forgot to lock the door.'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.


Dear Doctor Holmes and Mr Baer:

Good day, and I hope all is well with you and your family. My wife and I need your quick advice. I am a 44-year-old father, and wifey is 39 years old. Last night, our teener (14 years old) daughter caught us having sex inside our room. Her room is just beside our room. It’s a normal husband/wife sex/lovemaking, but we forgot to lock the door. She is our only kid so far. The other night, our daughter opened the door and saw Mommy on top of me. I think when the door suddenly opened with our daughter, wifey immediately lay down as if nothing happened, and I was the one who asked the teener to close the door. We are planning to discuss this with her, and the approach is more of lovemaking (showing love to wifey) and trying to have another child. In relation to this, would appreciate if you could suggest a better approach how to discuss this with our teener.

Ernie


Dear Ernie,

Sex education can be a fraught subject. Responsibility ought to lie with the parents, but many are reluctant to discuss sex, often because it is a taboo topic, or they feel uncomfortable raising the issue, or they do not feel qualified. Parents then pass the buck to their children’s schools to undertake the task, but there are frequently political, cultural, and religious influences at play in the classroom that prevent children from obtaining all the necessary knowledge to prepare them for life.

Ideally, sex education within the family should start early, be age appropriate, and addressed in a way that is comfortable for both parents and children.

In your case, Ernie, your daughter is already 14, so if you are going to speak to her, it would be best first to establish if she wants the conversation, at all. It is quite possible that she already has plenty of knowledge about sex (gleaned from peers and the internet, for example, not to mention her recent visit to your room!) and has neither the desire nor the need for a “birds and bees” conversation. If, however, she is open to a talk, then establish how much she knows first so that you can adjust the content of what you plan to say accordingly.

No matter where she lies on the spectrum (from innocent to streetwise) perhaps the most important message is to explain your family’s understanding of the nature of love, marriage, and the role of sex. This can extend to your views on premarital sex, safe sex, STIs, contraception, etc., as you see fit.

Best of luck,

JAFBaer


Dear Ernie,

Thank you very much for your letter. I love that your letter cuts to the chase with the ending: “…suggest a better approach how to discuss this with our teener.”

First, how did you ask your daughter (let’s call her Daisy) to close the door? If it was fraught with high emotion (which is understandable but could have sent the wrong message), then perhaps you could start by explaining boundaries and how, sometimes, emotions like embarrassment or worry may send the wrong message of anger. You could also mention how the boundaries were not established simply by your forgetting to lock the door. In other words, not her fault at all. And, in truth, not yours either…just one of those things that happen and a perfect example of how daily life can lead to daily mistakes (if one can even call it that).

This could segue into how the very best of intentions (not wanting to scare her or make her feel rejected and yet wanting to preserve your privacy) can lead to misunderstanding.

Then, you could further segue into sharing that you were making love, which is the way people who care for each other very deeply sometimes express themselves.

The rest of your conversation depends on whether she asks any questions and/or expresses any feelings. Personally, I think it is better not to ask her any questions, as in, “Do you know what Mommy and Daddy were doing in the bedroom?” which may sound more like a “test” than a conversation to make her feel comfortable.

Sometimes, a physical expression of love, when words are unnecessary, can show love, respect, and yes, passion much more deeply and convincingly than (mere) “words (of affirmation).” Now might also be a good time to talk about how such relationships – where one chooses to express oneself not merely by words or by spending time together – are usually super special, and you hope that, should she discover someone (or several ones/twos/threes) that she may want to express herself this way, she can talk to you about it.

Personally, too, I think it is better to limit yourself to how people can sometimes show their love for each other physically. Save the talk about wanting to have another baby for later. Two powerful messages (what you just saw and what it really means in terms of our relationship, and how making love can also lead to a pregnancy) can be too much to take in at one time. So, maybe talk about baby-making at some other time, in connection with how she might feel if she had a sibling, for example.

Later (or maybe even now – depending, as Mr. Baer said, on how “advanced” she is in her knowledge and experience) you can talk about what she should guard herself against when she starts having sex: not getting pregnant if she doesn’t want to, protecting herself from STDs, and also protecting herself from harmful people. I hope this will be the start of many talks among the three of you. I think it is wonderful that all three of you are involved in this endeavor, rather than simply leaving it to your wife, which tons of research shows is what usually happens.

The fact is, whether your daughter has learned about sex from her peers, social media, or even pornography, she still learns a lot from you. Hopefully, she learns about healthy relationships not just between you (husband) and spouse (wifey) but also within a thriving, functional family. What better way to learn about life and sex than 24/7 among people you love and trust?

A mantra among family therapists is “Emotions are caught, not taught.” Whatever you say about sex, love, and healthy relationships will not have as powerful an impact as the way you love and respect each family member. This way, a child learns practically by osmosis, painlessly (but also painfully, should said child grow up in a dysfunctional family).

I hope this will be the start (or continuation) of many talks among all three of you. A short, easy read that might be helpful is “Talking with Your Teens about Sex.

Good luck!

MG Holmes

Rappler.com

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