Have you ever kissed your partner only to hear “ugh, get a room” or “come on, not in front of the kids”? This old trope would be more laughable if it were firmly in the rearview mirror of history, but it’s not. There are still a lot of parents out there who think public displays of affection (PDA) in front of their kids are something to be ashamed of.
Before we take another look at all that kissing and hugging stuff, though, let’s assume that you’re already way ahead of the game; let’s assume you pre-quizzed your mate to ensure you’re with a partner who’s compatible with how you feel about sharing affection in front of others. You know, like when you asked them, “on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most publicly affectionate couple you’ve ever seen, what would you say your number would be?” You did remember to ask this vital question, right? Right. Then, you told them how you felt, and you were really honest too, right? Right! OK, the fact that the two of you are really compatible and a true team when it comes to affection is going to make it a whole lot easier to teach your kids about some of the most magical parts of being human.
Compatible, affectionate parents are perfectly positioned to teach their children about sexuality, consent, touch, and more. Knowing how affection works gives our children the gift of lifelong confidence in a world filled with sexual shame. Teaching our children healthy and respectful ways to love those around them, and to be loved in return, lays a powerful foundation. Healthy affection teaches healthy messages about consent too; children need our help internalizing into their very bodies the truth that consent can never be forced. Pressuring kids, as in, “c’mon, kiss your grandmother!” or “go ahead, give Uncle Mike a hug!” counters this message. We want our children’s brains and bodies to both know this truth: You never have to give anyone affection if you don’t want to.
There is a challenge in getting children comfortable enough to talk to parents about sex — and about masturbation, puberty, and more. And let’s face it: Plenty of parents don’t want to have these conversations.
But there is one major reason kids and parents are so uncomfortable talking about sex stuff. Usually, we presume that we have to jump in with the most awkward — that is, the most explicit topics first: the birds and the bees, sperm and eggs, and all that. And for many kids, that can feel like too much too soon — because human sexuality doesn’t start with “XXX” in nature or in human development. Sexuality starts with a lot of safer, more comfortable topics like first crushes and how we might ask for consent before trying to hold hands. Because we all know what it means when someone extends their hand to us, sometimes we don’t even need words.
And when you give affection to your partner, and talk about it with your child, you’re introducing one of the most natural, warm and kind ways you can begin teaching your kids about sexuality.
Here are five reasons why you and your partner should hop on the PDA-in-front-of-the-kids train:
It shows that affection is normal and healthy.
Affection is normal because we are a social species. We use touch to communicate positive messages of caring. Oh yeah, and touch feels good. Simple touch lowers levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Because of this fun fact, watch out: Affection is essentially addictive.
It teaches kids that affection between adults in love looks different and is different than that between kids and parents.
Sure, you know the difference but, remember: They’re kids. How can they know there’s a difference between platonic touch and potentially-sexual touch if they can’t see a difference? That’s one reason kids express so much disgust when parent units kiss; they are confused. Help them out.
Affection promotes a partner’s sense of profound, meaningful connection.
Because safe touches promote increased levels of oxytocin, the hormone that helps glue us together by promoting social bonding. Which leads to the next point: That sense of human connection increases the odds we’ll feel secure. And, through promoting that authentic sense of connection…
Affection promotes a child’s sense of security and builds their confidence.
And, best for last:
Being affectionate with your mate models loving behavior, which will give your kids better odds of future success in finding the love they are going to need and deserve.
So that someday they, too, can enjoy grossing out their kids every time they kiss in front of them.
Physical affection really does correlate with positive outcomes in romance. And why wouldn’t it? More oxytocin, less cortisol, more fun, less buzzkill. If you haven’t tried affection yet, trust me: It’s pretty good. Let’s teach our kids that our bodies make the best and healthiest drugs in the world (marketing slogan: “Millions of years in development!”), so feel free to kiss your partner in front of your kids. Then, you can even say, “I’m sorry, kids, I just can’t help it. I’m addicted.”
Hopefully, no one will find a cure.
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