It’s been a minute, yet I’m still secondhand mortified by how Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos got caught, um, celebrating Father’s Day this year, which fell on their daughter Lola’s 18th birthday. “It happened again,” Consuelos said this week during an appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan, recalling Lola walking in and catching an eyeful. (Apparently locks are not in vogue in the Ripa-Consuelos household.) Despite Ripa’s excellent cover of “I’m being resuscitated!” for Lola, the damage was done. “She shuts the door and you hear, ‘You just ruined my birthday and my life and I used to see in color and now everything is gray,'” Ripa shared.
Well. I, for one, am happy that Lola has at least some sense of humor about the ordeal, because walking in on your parents having sex, or having a child walk in on you having sex is a one-way trip to Trauma City. For all parties involved. But because life happens, if you ever find yourself tangled in a Conseulesque (Ripa-esque?) snafu, how can you handle ever looking your kids in the eyes again? Does it require, like, a sit-down discussion, or is it best to shuffle the whole memory under the rug? According to a pro at handling life’s awkward-shrug moments (a therapist, folks), honestly, it depends.
“In response to your kids walking in on you in the middle of the deed, it’s important to take their age into account,” says psychotherapist Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT. “Are they old enough to understand?”
Your toddler, for example, might not need a full explanation, and your teenager likely knows what’s going on and might benefit from a chat. In the latter case, that “talk” might just be limited to: “Sorry you saw that. Next time maybe wait 10 seconds after you knock.” A kiddo who’s a bit younger but still has a sense of what happened might need some sort of explainer. But whether age 7 or 17, the important thing is not to demonize sex.
“Some younger children may not understand, and, of course, you don’t have to go into detail, but reassuring a small child that all is okay may be important.” —Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT
“Every family is different in how they handle these delicate conversations, but in my opinion it’s important to not make sex bad,” Thompson says. “The best thing a parent can do is educate about sex. Some younger children may not understand, and, of course, you don’t have to go into detail, but reassuring a small child that all is okay may be important. They may be hearing sounds they don’t understand.” And that makes sense; if you’re pretty vocal in bed, Junior could interpret your moans as a cry for help. Or maybe they hear someone shouting “daddy” and think it’s playtime for everyone.
There are a number of ways this situation may have come to be, but one crucial trick for making sure it’s not a repeat, eye-burning offense is prevention. “Things like this happen to most parents, but it’s important to set up time with no interruptions with your intimate partner,” Thompson says. She advises to always lock the door, or schedule sex around times when you know your children are out, occupied, or sleeping. “It will help prevent those oopsie moments.”
Keep in mind that it’s not at all shameful that you’re enjoying your healthy sex life or that your kids (very unfortunately) accidentally see that. Parents having sex is of course natural and normal, so you might as well act like Ripa and Consuelos and own it (um, maybe not on national television though).
And the one thing you might want to do differently than those two? Invest in a latch.
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