A common sight in any household: Father, mother and kid(s) watching the television together.
Somewhere down the line, invariably, the characters on the screen kiss. A peck on the cheek, a kiss on the forehead and the most dreaded smooching!! The moment that scene appears on the screen, one must catch a glimpse of the parents’ faces. It is an expression that manifests from terror and anxiousness. I’ve been there too. I am sure, the expression on my face would’ve been worthy of being awarded the-funniest-expression-in-the-world. Or maybe, a new addition to the nava rasas!
This happened to me a few times and it got me thinking. How do we react, as parents, to such a situation? Why exactly do we do this? What are we afraid of? And should we be?
So I am sharing my two cents about dealing with on screen displays of intimacy with the hope that it will take us all to the right direction.
The moment any form of sexual/physically intimate gesture appears on the screen when our children are around, these are the most common reactions-
Change the channel – Have you ever thought of this from your child’s perspective? I mean, why would someone suddenly change a channel to a random one? Probably, all of you were watching a movie or sitcom together and then out of nowhere you start pressing the keys on the remote like you have nothing else to do! And when this becomes a pattern, when you start doing this every time two people get close on the screen – children know what’s going to happen next. The father or mother will change the channel! Yet, they do not know what will happen on screen. And trust me, they will figure it out with or without the adults helping.
Ask them to go into their room to play/write/sleep – Now, this one is yet again weird, isn’t it? Until that point, it was fine to watch the movie/show and then suddenly they’ve been asked to move out of the room for some unfathomable reason! Children pick up patterns and as said before, they will be more curious about your behaviour than what’s on screen.
Start a conversation and distract them – This is better than the first two reactions, I’d say. Atleast you are an active participant in the distraction strategy. So, yes – this would be a good one, but be careful to bring up topics that make sense. Not just any random question and conversation! And yes, even after the sexual scene ends on the screen, please continue your conversation for a few more minutes. Don’t end it abruptly. As always, children are smart. At least, let them think you really had something to talk about.
Why are we afraid our children witnessing physical intimacy?
Let’s now list down our fears around this and discuss them. So, here are some questions that we ask ourselves in this situation.
How will it impact the child? – Hmmm, let me tell you from my experience – most often, it makes no impact. They will continue to watch it like any other scene on the screen.
What if they ask questions? – Aah, I think we should be happy about it, shouldn’t we? I mean, our little ones should be curious and when they share their questions with us, what can be better?
Now I am trying to think of the questions they might ask.
“What are they doing?”
Possible Response – And to this we should give the most straightforward and obvious answer. That they are kissing. They like each other, so they are kissing. Just like how mamma/pappa kiss you.
“Why are they kissing?”
Possible Response – They are kissing because they love each other so much. Uncle/aunty is happy, so s/he feels like hugging and kissing.
“Why are they kissing on the lips? You’ve told me it’s not good.”
Possible Response – Yes, that’s true. As children, we should not kiss on lips. It’s not hygienic either, germs could transfer from lip to lip. But once you grow up and you like someone very much, you might do it too. You’ll know when it is right.
Another concern is ‘What if they form an incorrect impression about sexuality?‘ – I think, children do not form impressions by what they see on screen, at least if we can help it. We need to help them feel that it is normal. That people hug and kiss and show physical intimacy when they truly love each other, and that it is normal.
And finally, I think beyond all this – it is important that we display and share some amount of physical intimacy with our children. A touch can make a world of difference. Kiss your little ones, pat them, hug them, let them roll over you and play, cuddle them – let them know bodies bond. And this is how you could form an impression in a child’s mind. That it’s fine. Touching isn’t weird and unnecessary. When you touch them, they will understand the beauty of it. A lot of questions will slowly vanish into thin air in the process.
They say, it takes a village to raise a child. We have one here at Parentous, a virtual one. So, please share and let me know how you handle or would handle such situations. Let’s learn from each other.
Rashmi Balakrishnan says: I am a four year old mother. Been around for 3-plus decades. Learning new lessons and unlearning a few old ones. I try and find happiness in small things. I dream. I laugh. I cry. I hear. And I try and do. Life is all about love, laughter and light for me.