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What to Say to 8 Year Old Who
Walked in on Lovemaking

QUESTION: Our eight-year-old daughter walked in to our bedroom while we were making love. We were in clear view. When I tried to talk to her about what she might have seen or if she had any questions she just shrugged it off and wanted to change the subject. Should I wait until she brings it up?

Despite the sexual revolution, the topic of sexuality can be somewhat awkward when we are first faced with explaining it to our youngsters. Sex is a very private part of your couples' relationship. Showing your daughter that you are willing to talk about sex with her is the first step towards establishing open communication about this very important (and formerly very taboo) topic! Pat yourself on the back for taking a step towards desensitizing this very loaded subject.

Simply naming the activity that Mommy and Daddy were involved in when she walked into your bedroom, gives your daughter a context for bringing the subject up in the future. Do you feel that you got your message across, or did your daughter cut you off precipitously? What was your intent in bringing this situation up to your daughter? Did you achieve your goal?

Consider whether you feel there is anything "unfinished" about your attempt to discuss this topic. For example, if you feel that your daughter cut you off and due to you own clumsiness you did not have a chance to fully complete the message you wanted to give her, then by all means try again! Keep it short and sweet, but speak directly and clearly.

For example, "I just want you to know that your Dad and I were making love when you opened the door to the bedroom and we were naked. This is something parents do together." Reflect upon any exclamations you or your husband might have made when she made her untimely entrance. For example, if you yelled out in surprise, she may have taken it personally. Address this, "I was surprised because I did not know anyone was at the door. I hope I didn't scare you when I yelled like that." Again follow her lead in any response. If she has nothing to say, continue with, "I just want to be sure you know that its okay to ask me anything about lovemaking, since we've never talked about it before." Again, simply follow her lead. Answer questions, or let it be, as she wishes.

The more we are able to discuss sexuality as a normal part of our lives, the easier it is to speak with our partners about our sexual needs and develop healthy and satisfying love relationships as adults. It is not too early to begin setting the tone for open communication with your daughter on this sensitive subject.

It is possible that you are venturing into a territory your own mother never traveled with you. No wonder you feel unsure in your footing. Rest assured that your efforts now, will pave the way for the future. Adolescence is just a few years away!

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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