If you are a couple without children when and where you have sex doesn’t seem like a stressful decision. But once you become parents deciding when being amorous is appropriate can be a monumental task. And it’s almost a parental rite of passage to have been caught in a sexually compromising situation by your kids, or to at least have had a close call.

In that moment when you are caught in the act by your children there are many questions that will run through your mind. How much did they see? How do I explain it? Will this be damaging to them psychologically? And of course, how quickly can I get them back in bed and asleep so we can resume?

Explaining to Them What They Saw

How you explain this will depend largely on their age and what they actually witnessed. Be careful about going for explanations that are silly or too fanciful. Telling them you were playing leap frog or wrestling can be confusing and create additional questions. But you also have to be careful about how much information you provide as well. Because you feel exposed and somehow guilty you are likely to assume that they saw EVERYTHING. The truth is that because your child was likely sleepy and there were probably sheets involved, what they really saw is probably a lot less than you think.

In most cases, a general explanation of hugging or snuggling because you love each other will suffice, especially at the younger years. For preschoolers and even early elementary, this will likely make sense since these are things they probably associate with love and bedtime.

As your kids age, however, they may recognize that you’re not telling them the full truth. And as they start to understand more about sex, dishonest explanations can potentially stigmatize what is a natural and healthy expression of love between adults, and give them the impression that there is something shameful about it. It may also create more questions than answers, and if they feel you are not telling them the truth they may look for answers elsewhere. This leaves open the distinct possibility for incorrect information to be taken in. For example, a parent I was counseling found that her 11-year-old son had been told that sex was when a man and a woman went behind a dumpster and got naked — a worrisome image on many, many levels.

This isn’t to say that graphic details are necessary, particularly in the moment, but being ready to address questions honestly and in a forthright manner is important. Concepts regarding sex are introduced at a far younger age today than we may like to admit, especially through the media and online exposure. Ensuring that your child gets honest and accurate answers to age appropriate questions will actually serve to keep them safer than they would be if kept in the dark. In fact, many studies suggest that by age 8 a child should understand the basics of how babies are created.

Modifying Your Sexual Relationship When You Have Kids Around

Having children around can definitely impact your sexual freedom as a couple. And if not handled correctly by both parents it can have repercussions not only for kids if they catch you, but also for your relationship. Unfortunately, there are many couples whose intimate lives become nearly nonexistent once they have children and end up in a completely sexless marriage.

The exhaustion of work and family can mean that maintaining a healthy intimate relationship can be difficult, especially if you feel the only time available for that is midnight or later when the kids are soundly asleep. So what is a couple to do when it comes to keeping the intimacy and love making alive?

Well, if you haven’t already, invest in a lock for your bedroom door. Some couples with locks, however, are reluctant to use them for fear that it will cause questions and problems, or that their children won’t be able to get to them in an emergency. Resist this worry. Teaching your children early on the concept of privacy and that a parent’s locked bedroom door means mom and dad need some private time is a good and important lesson.

Establishing boundaries without guilt or apology is also important. If your child does catch you in the act you have nothing to feel guilty about. But neither does your child. When discussing things with your child the following day or whenever they ask try to let go of your embarrassment and speak to them in a matter of fact manner, providing a truthful answer with limitations appropriate for their age. And then use the opportunity to discuss the concept of privacy, respect, boundaries and, of course, knocking.

All parents fear getting caught by their kids. And while we hope it never happens, thinking ahead about what you might do if you were can help. So can a lock.