When Dr. Laura Berman, a noted authority on sex health, offered her “5 ways to keep kids from ruining your sex life,” she hit some fine points that are difficult for many to swallow. You can read them here; she puts it bluntly and calls our world “child-centric.”
As a father myself, I know first hand that having children makes life more complicated and busy. They can become the center of everything (I applaud the moms who give up work outside the home to care for and raise their kids full-time.). But regardless of whether a home has two working parents or just one, I bet sex get shoved aside more often than not. Amid the chaos of trying to achieve that mythical balance between work and home, you forget about the pleasures—and necessity—of sex. In brief, here’s what I think about Berman’s ideas:
1) Separate beds:
Yes, I’ve always been a fan of separate beds. They help create boundaries and the sooner your children sleep in their own beds, the sooner they can establish healthy sleep habits for life.
Although most books on children’s sleep recommend that they do not sleep in your bed, I will say that I disagree in some cases. Every family’s situation will be different, but some circumstances can call for parents to share the bed with a child. If your sleep is consistently disrupted based on putting your child back to bed several times each night, then it’s okay to consider letting them in your bed—but for a limited time.
As a example, if Little Suzie sneaks in a
4:30 a.m., then go ahead and let her stay, especially if she (and you)
can fall back to sleep easily. If she can’t get to sleep, then she must
be put back in her own bed. Over the course of the following few weeks,
reward your kids for staying in their beds longer and longer.
2) Adults-only vacations:
I love this idea. But what Berman forgets
to point out is in addition to the boost you get in your sex life, a
vacation with your significant other can do wonders to your sleep bank
as well. You can use the time to catch up on lost sleep and return to
the real world ready to go again (and hopefully with a renewed sense of
the importance of sleep).
3) Save your energy—don’t super-parent:
This one is easier said than done. We all want to be super-parents, driving them around to as many activities as possible. (Which supposedly helps them achieve more and get into good schools later on, right?) But I can see her point. All that super-parenting takes its toll. We can go to bed too tired for sex and perhaps too stressed out to fall asleep easily.
4) Agree on disciplining:
I always tell patients never to argue or bring sensitive issues—whether they are about parenting or not—into the bedroom. It creates tension in a room that is supposed to be a sanctuary for sex and sleep only. So if you and your spouse don’t agree on how to discipline your kids, keep that out of the bedroom.
5) Set a date night and stick to it:
As with the vacation, I’m all for this. Good luck making it happen on a regular basis.
What often gets missed, though, in all this talk about maintaining your sexual health by policing the kids is this: it’s not just about you and your spouse’s sex life. Parents play a key role in helping their children get a good night’s sleep. This, in turn, affects their moods, education, and development. That said, here are a few of my favorite tips:
• As parents, you need to determine the amount of sleep each family member needs and take steps to ensure individual needs are met.
• Establish regular bedtime routines, creating a quiet and comfortable bedroom. Televisions and computers need to be out of the bedroom and caffeine should not be part of a child’s diet (or you will see William jumping on your bed at midnight).
• Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common sleep problems in children include difficulty falling asleep, nighttime awakenings, snoring, stalling and resisting going to bed, having trouble breathing, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. These sleep problems can be evident in daytime behavior such as being overtired, sleepy or cranky.
• Talk to your child’s doctor about sleep—even if your doctor doesn’t breach the topic.
At the end of the day, all these tips will assure you a healthy, happy bedroom life.