The chances are, you have — or will — experience certain embarrassing and awkward moments with your little one that leave you thinking, “Wait did that really just happen?”. They are an undoubtedly cringe-worthy, but bear in mind that these horrifying moments offer up great opportunities to instil in your child values about boundaries, privacy, specialness and appropriate behaviour.
Being proactive as a parent can go a long way in preventing some of these scenarios from occurring in the first place: keep intimate, adult moments private by simply locking doors and drawers. Still, children have a way of saying and doing things that catch you off guard.
Just remember to think before you respond. You don’t want to react in a way that makes your child feel like they asked or did something wrong.
Read on to learn how to recover from some extremely sticky situations.
They walk in on you and your partner having sex
While it’s easy to come up with a quick lie — “we were wrestling over the remote control” –, don’t. Even young children know when they’re in an awkward situation and when you’re distorting the truth. You don’t want them to think that they can’t count on you for honesty. Nevertheless, you don’t have to give them full disclosure. Say something like “We were cuddling. It’s something special that mummies and daddies do together.” and leave it at that.
They discover your ‘goodie drawer’
Take a deep breath and try not to get flustered; if you freak out, your child will think they did something wrong. You don’t want them to feel bad about sex — just that it’s only for grownups. So give a brief answer and then quickly redirect their attention. For instance you could say, “That’s a tool.” “It’s a muscle massager.” Then redirect: “Hey, let’s go look for the cat!”
They tell someone about witnessing one of the aforementioned moments
While it is embarrassing that your child just ousted you, don’t get hung up on what the other person thinks. All adults know about sex so try to keep your reaction in perspective. That said, immediately acknowledge that your child is telling the truth with a simple “Yes.” Then, change the subject.
Nevertheless, this introduces an opportunity to teach your toddler about privacy. Now that your child has learned to talk, they have to learn that there are rules about talking. You can explain to a child as young as 2 or 3 that there are some things that we only discuss at home — and nudity (just like poos and wee) is one of them. Be sure to remind your child that while certain topics aren’t up for discussion with the babysitter or on the playground, there is no subject off limits with you. Your child is going to have a lot of questions about sex in the coming years and you want to make sure that they feel comfortable to come to you first.
They are a big fan of naked time — all the time
You don’t have a chronic nudist on your hands, but you do have to set boundaries. Explain to your child that they can be naked at home as much as they like, as long as you’re not hosting any visitors. But once they go out in public, the clothes must stay on.
Talking to your child about the activities, body parts and family information that should stay private not only helps to prevent embarrassing situations, but is also essential in preventing dangerous situations from occurring. You could say something along the lines of: “Under your underwear is private. That means no one can touch or look at this area. This is why we wear underwear and close doors when we go to the toilet.”
As you get out the shower they ask: “Why don’t you have a penis?”
Be honest, but brief. Say something that acknowledges the difference without inducing shame, such as “Because that’s the way ladies are made. Cool, huh?”
Children are keenly aware of the differences they see between themselves and others — and they often ask questions out of that curiosity. While a basic anatomy lesson shouldn’t happen as you’re stepping out the shower, it’s a good idea to take the time to explain the general differences between boys and girls — while using proper terminology.
And this brings up a bigger question: Should you stop sharing a shower with your child at a certain age? Many experts believe that as long as neither party feels awkward about it, it’s fine to be naked in front of your children.
They like to put their hands down their trousers in public
The first wave of childhood masturbation peaks between the ages of 3 and 5, so it’s not abnormal to see a child innocently rubbing themselves. It’s completely natural. Still, if your little one is playing with themselves in public or in front of the family, ask them to take their hands out of their trousers. Then explain, “Touching your privates is a private thing. If you’d like to do that, please do it when you’re alone in your room or wait until we get home.” Again, don’t make a big deal out of it. The more attention — even if it’s negative — your child gets for their behaviour, the more likely they are to continue it.