• Tue, Jan 11 2011

Should You Kiss in Front of Your Children?

My daughter has hit the stage where she wants everything to be a family. She must have three of everything, so there can be a mommy, daddy and baby. A family of stuffed teddy bears, a family of hearts she drew. It’s a little like Goldilocks, there should always be three in descending size. She’s even a little peeved with Disney movies lately because they rarely have a mother and a father. Perhaps most telling, since Brenna is an only child, if there is another sibling, she refers to them as “friend.” So her dollhouse has Mommy, Daddy, Baby and Friend, and she plays with them all the time.

Recently, while playing with the dollhouse, Daddy was leaving for work. He gave Baby a kiss on the forehead and then proceeded to kiss Mommy for about 10 minutes. There Brenna sat, smashing the dolls together and making kissy noises, because apparently Mommy’s and Daddy’s make out every time they say goodbye. And to be completely honest, she’s not entirely wrong. According to Brenna’s experience, Mommy and Daddy don’t part with a quick peck on the cheek. We stand up, put our arms around each other and kiss. We don’t actually make out in front of our daughter, there’s never any tongue. But we also don’t shy away from expressing our affection simply because little eyes are watching us.
After the dollhouse incident, my husband and I sat down to talk about the appropriateness of our physical displays of affection. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about anything sexual. We would never grope each other in front of our daughter. But it’s not abnormal for my husband’s arm to be around me. Or for me to hug him when he enters the room I’m in. Or for us to kiss for no reason. We’re newlyweds, after all.

While I routinely saw my parents kiss, hold hands and cuddle, my husband admitted that he had never seen his parents be particularly affectionate. In fact, I’m pretty sure that it would thoroughly freak out my husband and his siblings to see their parents throw their arms around each other. With my parents, it wouldn’t seem abnormal at all. So, how detrimental is it to see your parents kiss?

My husband and I would give very different answers, mostly because we were raised in very different households. Personally, I grew up learning that kissing or cuddling were physical expressions of love. And my parents, for thirty years now, have loved each other with all their hearts. I’ve always felt extremely lucky to have that example. My in-laws have been married over forty years now, and they are no less committed to each other. But for them, physical affection is completely private. And yet, their children never doubted that they loved each other. My husband, like me, has always felt lucky to have parents who love each other unconditionally.

As Brenna grows up, I really hope that our affectionate ways don’t change. I hope we can teach Brenna that physical displays of love aren’t wrong when you have strong and deep feelings for someone. I hope she learns that there are different kinds of love and different ways of expressing it. And just as much as I hope my daughter appreciates our lovey-dovey junk, I hope my husband and I never get past the point where we want to kiss each other every time we enter the same room.

So what do you think? Is it appropriate to kiss and hug in front of your children? Or should all affection take place behind closed doors?

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  • Eileen

    I have never, ever seen my parents make out (and would never want to) – but I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t seen them kiss each other on the mouth, sit close to each other, hug, put cold hands on the other’s neck to scare him/her…etc. I’m pretty sure it didn’t scar me for life or ruin me for sex or anything else horrible like that.

  • MNiM

    Realistically, for most of human history, parents didn’t have much privacy when it came to sex (one room housing, etc.) That’s not to say that I think parents should have sex in front of their kids (we do have other options these days), but hugging and kissing? I think it’s fine for people who don’t want to be affectionate (like your husband’s parents) in front of their children (or offspring, in this case) to make that choice, just as your parents’ decision was also fine.

    You and your husband should make whatever decision suits you. I doubt Brenna’s going to be overly pushed about it either way. Eventually, she’ll be old enough to start comparing her parents to other people’s and that’s gonna happen regardless of what you choose, just as you and your husband do.

  • CurlySarah29

    I think that it is perfectly normal to kiss in front of your children… I remember when my parents did love each other (long before their divorce) and were affectionate. I think that to hide affection with your partner in front of your kids sort of makes it seem like it’s something to be ashamed of/taboo, and may make kids not comfortable showing affection later on in life.

  • LaLa

    I’m going through something similar with my 2 year old daughter. My husband and I would never make out in front of her, but we do kiss and hug and all that. And sometimes the kiss is more than just a peck but it’s never gross, overt, or inappropriate. But recently my daughter has started kissing my husband and I very…um…passionately? It will last a long time and sometimes she kind of swivels her head (like they did in old movies before the could express passion with tongue). I don’t know if this is because of my husband and I kissing in front of her or maybe watching too many movies where the prince and princess kiss in the end. But it freaks me out every time and I kind of push her away. I don’t want to teach that affection is wrong, but I do want to teach that some things aren’t appropriate. I don’t want to stop being affectionate with my husband but I also don’t want my daughter to keep trying to kiss me the way he does.

  • L

    No one should ever kiss in front of anyone. Ever. Two people, in a room, away from others. Because ew, that’s why.

  • Taylor

    As a young (20) adult in a relationship with the man I’m going to marry, I can honestly say that my entire model for a healthy relationship came from my parents, who are very affectionate. They never cross the line between sweet and uncomfortable for others, but I’m SO thankful that my parents demonstrated the importance of affection, love, and even a little lust–the fact that they’re 50 and still like each other’s bodies makes me want the same for myself, not get grossed out. Obviously I never see them do anything more than kiss, but they adore each other, and that naturally carries over into physical affection. My boyfriend’s parents call each other “mom” and “dad” instead of by their names–now THAT grosses me out more than watching my own parents kiss. I don’t want my husband to see me as the cooking, cleaning baby-maker of the family, I want him to see me as sexy, fun, and still exciting no matter how long we’ve been married. I’m so glad my parents showed me just how much they loved each other–where else would I learn what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like?

  • Lorraine

    Most people model adult behavior and preferences for behavior on childhood experiences. My parents were affectionate with one another while also staying appropriate, which I appreciate. It taught me that a marriage wasn’t just a business contract, my parents genuinely liked and enjoyed each other. Now, on that same note, when I got married and found myself in my first argument with my husband I was totally lost. My mother was the passive-aggressive type that would make a comment that cut to the bone with a smile on her face, my father would mentally note the criticism and move on. If they ever had an argument the children never saw it. I’m not saying to scream and yell in front of your children, but I do think it is healthy for them to see that it is possible for two people to disagree yet still love one another in the end. When in my first argument with my husband I remember mentally panicking because I thought it would be the end of our relationship. Conflict is normal in any relationship, especially one of equals, but parents should be comfortable modeling that behavior, too!

  • adrienne

    i have never ever seen my parents make out (and would never want to)- but i cant remember a time when i hadint kiss ech other on the mouth sit coles to each other hug put cold hands on others neck to scaer him/her…etc im pretty sure it me for a life or ruin me for sex or anything else horrible like that.

    • adrienne

      i have seen my parnst holding hand and haveing sex when i am a seelp and i whent to crie and cold ther thing in the mildle of ther bodye like bloe and like nonoe and they put it right in the thing like wat grils have that rod and prenst pleasey dont do that in fornt of your kids thank you.

  • BB

    My parents always do that! Once when I was in the living room watching T.V., My mom was in there watching T.V. as well, then a few minutes later, my dad got back home from work. My mom put on lipstick (as red as an apple) and they just hugged. Held hands for 5 hours! Then, one night when I was sleeping, it was a big thunderstorm. I went to the washroom an

    d then – THERE! The bathroom door was opened a bit and there was light in it. I peeked quietly and my mom was naked! She has bandages taped on her boobs and skinny underwear. My dad was in working clothes and they were kissing in the bath. My mom was holding her boobs and they has their lips on for 20 minutes and hugging for hours! Then they stood up and started dancing in prom style. But, they’re lips were still on. It made me feel weird. The next day I saw my mom sitting on my dads lap while he was working. My mom started kissing and they just never stop! They even did it in front of ANYONE! -Even strangers.