A major argument against alternative relationships, particularly as it applies to families, is the negative impact it must pose to children. In the US the topic of sex remains one of silence and shame, and the lack of sex education in school seems to support a parent’s choice to avoid it at all costs. Not only avoid the topic, but when it does come up, teach your child to avoid sex in general. Well, we don’t have any research showing that there is any negative impact at all, and if you look at studies coming out of Europe, you’ll find that a relaxed attitude towards sex somehow seems to equal less teen pregnancy. But let’s not dwell on teen pregnancy numbers, as it reduces sex to nothing more than an act defined by heterosexual intercourse. Removing shame and stigma from sexuality is so crucial to healthy identity development and self-esteem but it’s more than that. We find that parents with nontraditional configurations and habits tend to convey a value for sexual pleasure and self-respect to their children; they don’t see their children as infants incapable of understanding all this sex stuff. We see a trend of parents who acknowledge their children are young adults, capable of absorbing sexual education, and falling in love; There is a choice to affirm this.
This article, featured a couple years ago in Psychology Tomorrow, is a great example of what can happen when parents forgo erecting obstacles that will stunt their children’s sexual development, and focus on their child as a whole person with sexual needs and desires that go beyond protecting them from pregnancy. And what happens in this case? This particular daughter chooses a life of monogamy despite her sexually adventurous sex therapist father. Hmmm? How can that happen?
As therapists, we work with a range of sexual and romantic choices in the therapeutic setting, and by using a cognitive behavioral framework, we tend to stay in the here and now. Nurture your children where they are now, and not for the mistakes they could possibly make later. And as parents, love and engage as you wish without attempting to control the reaction and judgement of those around you. You are probably harder on yourself than any neighbor could ever be. And they will talk about you anyway, so why not give them something more interesting to talk about.