While we understand there are various approaches to parenting, we believe there are certain things that children need not know about their parents.
As children grow into young adulthood, and they begin to develop a frame of reference for the birds and the bees, most all of them struggle with the idea that for them to be alive that their parents had to do that! If that concept is difficult to handle, then imagine the awkwardness of the kids discovering that their parents might be interested in some bedroom practices that aren’t exactly Vanilla-flavored, but more like Rocky Road.
As the best-selling book 50 Shades of Grey has become a national sensation, engaging some couples in some of their darker romantic fantasies, those who are “Married with Children” face several challenges. First, how do they approach some of these new ideas in a safe, sane and consensual fashion? Second, how can they do it while still being true to their roles as responsible parents?
Here are some tips on how to handle both questions:
- Separate Fiction from Fact — Many of the practices revealed in 50 Shades of Grey may seem captivating in the context of a fictional story, but can be downright dangerous to couples who want to explore them. They involve core relationship issues such as trust, comfort, security and consent, so it’s really not a good idea to use a work of fiction as your guide. Adult Web sites with explicit videos also may not be a good resource, as most of them were not created to educate, but rather, to excite. Books and articles by experts and scholars on the subjects covered in 50 Shades are the best places to start. Read up on the realities of those fantasies before you begin to experiment with your partner.
- Talk — Communication is the cliche of the counseling profession. We always advise our patients to communicate openly, but if it were that easy an instruction to follow, we probably wouldn’t have a practice at all. It’s not enough to be able to talk openly — you have to be able to listen without judgment. Upon hearing your partner express an interest in something that’s out of your comfort zone, it’s generally not good to react with, “That’s insane! You’re a freak!” It’s probably better to say something along the lines of, “I appreciate the attraction you have to that idea, but it’s probably out of my comfort zone to actually try.” You communicate the same idea, but without punishing your partner for speaking the truth. If you react judgmentally when your partner is opening up to you, all you are really doing is conditioning your partner to close up and keep things from you. Lying is a bad practice in relationships, but sometimes we must remember that our partners learn how to lie to us because we train them to do just that by punishing them whenever they speak a truth that is unpleasant to us.
- Proceed Slowly — Exploring fantasies can be a wonderful time for couples, but remember that you are exploring. If you were exploring a cave or scuba diving in unfamiliar territory, that’s also exploring. In those circumstances, you tend to proceed cautiously, for fear of unknown dangers you may face. Exploring fantasies should be treated the same way. It is better to leave each other wanting more than overdoing it right out of the gate and causing an abrupt end to your exploration.
As for the kids, here are some ideas to help you navigate that touchy terrain at home:
- Privacy — If you’re like most parents, there are times when the kids are home alone. If you don’t think that they don’t sometimes take the opportunity to look in places you think are private, you’re likely to be disappointed. First, protect your computer. Most browsers have an option called “private browsing.” This function does not track the sites you visit, and leaves your history list blank. Use it regularly, and you’ll never have to worry about your kids finding that article about more adult topics on your computer. Also, in case you order some instructional books from Amazon or maybe some sexy ensembles from an online lingerie site, don’t have them delivered to your home. Establish a mailbox at the post office or the UPS store for those deliveries. For a few extra bucks a month, you can be assured that packages intended only for you and your spouse are only handled by you and your spouse.
- The Closed Door — For those non-traditional practices that don’t involve a lot of noise that can be heard through closed doors, enact a closed-door policy in your home. Agree with your kids that you will always knock on their door before entering their bedrooms as long as they always knock on yours first, as well. Locking your door enhances your privacy, but respect for their privacy will result in a higher road — they will respect your privacy, as well.
- Alone Time — Kids love the movies, and they love going to the movies without Mom and Dad along, so indulge them. Heck, send them to a double feature. Allow them to have friends as overnight guests on occasion so that you can also benefit from them spending overnights with their friends on occasion, as well. All of these tactics can ensure you getting the house to yourselves from time to time without making your kids feeling like you’re just conspiring to get them out so you can be alone.
Follow these guidelines, and you should be able to walk the delicate line of being responsible to your family and adventurous with each other, and enjoy the benefits of both.