Steve and Laura thought the kids were asleep. He'd been away on a business
trip and they were eager to be together. Too eager, perhaps -- they'd failed to
lock their bedroom door. As it turned out, 8-year-old James hadn't had enough
time with Daddy, either. Hoping to crawl into bed for some extra snuggles, he
walked in without knocking.
Standing in the doorway for three long seconds ("one one thousand, two
one thousand, three one thousand"), James saw things he'd never seen his
parents doing before, until Steve and Laura realized he was there. How did he
-- and they -- handle it?
A Parent's Guide to Bedwetting
More than 5 million school-aged children wet the bed at night -- with twice as many boys wetting their bed as girls. Here's what you need to know to help your child deal with this common problem.
The answer largely hinged on one thing: how much accurate and
age-appropriate information Steve and Laura had already shared with James. If a
child has had many small, casual conversations about sexuality with his or her
parents starting as soon as language begins, then the reaction isn't likely to
be a negative one.
So, while I always advise parents to check that they've locked their bedroom
door (and install a lock if one is missing), I also tell them not to be
devastated by a surprise visit. There is no harm in children understanding that
parents share a special way of being physically intimate with each another. (In
fact, it's very healthy.) Such an experience may be embarrassing, but the best
approach is to remain calm and matter-of-fact. Parents can say, "We are
having some private time together and we would like you to leave the room.
Please be sure to close the door."
Parents should also go to the child to ask what he saw -- or thought he saw
-- and to invite questions or offer reassurance about what has happened. A
3-year-old might wonder if anyone was being hurt (based on the sounds and
actions), so it's a good idea to reassure him. A 5-year-old is likely to be
quite the scientist and try to get as close as possible -- while going
undiscovered -- to figure out exactly what is happening. (Offer some
information to "the scientist" and this should suffice.) An 8-year-old
may have hit the "cooties" stage and think that it's weird that anyone
would ever want to do that. A 12-year-old is likely to be "grossed out"
and turn on his heel because his parents were having sex!
Parents who get caught fooling around need to understand that kids process
information about sex -- everything from what their friends discuss with them
to what their parents do -- gradually and incrementally. That means if a child
like James happens to see his parents, he's likely to feel some surprise. But
not as much if he or she already knows that his parents sometimes express their
care for each other by kissing and rubbing their bodies and genitals together
while naked in bed. Offer your children a constant stream of sexual
information, and if they happen to see you in the act, the dreaded "primal
scene" need not be so upsetting.
Originally published in the January/February issue of
WebMD the Magazine.