Ignoring what’s in front of you

When parents ignore what’s in front of them, they lose the chance to have meaningful conversations about choice with their teenagers.  Here’s an example (if you’re receiving this via e-mail or RSS, you’ll need to come back to my site to watch the video):

What could the mom or the dad have said here – how could they have reacted in a way that was respectful, honest, and not ignoring the reality of what they walked in on?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. I would love to think that I would react in a way that was respectful and honest and didn’t ignore what was going on, but how SHOULD a parent react if this sort of thing happens? I can’t imagine anything to do other than turn around and go back out–which I’m sure is wrong–but what else would there be to do?

  2. Should is such a strong word, m!

    There are lots of issues to potentially talk about here – including the sexual activity in a public space, the level of sexual activity the two were engaging in or considering engaging in, potentially the boyfriend being in the house when the parents were out, and many more, depending on the rules and assumptions of the household.

    But regardless of what the top point of concern is, in this sort of scenario the parents need to simply go about their day. Any sexual activity between the young couple has been stopped for the time being, everyone has been thoroughly embarrassed, and there is not really any need to make it worse. The daughter will be far better able to listen and talk openly with her parents if they don’t embarrass her in front of her boyfriend, but rather open a conversation later that day or even the next day – but sometime after the boyfriend has left.

    So in that moment? Don’t walk away – you clearly came into the room for some reason – so greet your daughter and her boyfriend and then go about whatever it was you wanted to do, and act as though nothing particularly surprising has happened. Act as though you had just walked in on them simply talking on couch. Ask the couple if they would like to engage in some activity with you – basketball, video games, cooking, going to a movie – whatever activity would feel natural to you and them to engage in together. If touch is common in your family, touch your daughter in some non-confrontational way, like a hand on her shoulder as you walk by.

    Through it all, and this is important, act as naturally as you possibly can. Don’t freak out, don’t ignore them, don’t get upset. You can freak out all you want with your spouse or a friend later, but it’s critical that you tend to those emotions on your own time rather than bringing your daughter and her boyfriend into them.

  3. Karen, you owe me a band-aid for the bump I got on my head from falling off my chair laughing!

    I think your advice to m is spot on.

  4. It’s a pretty funny commercial, isn’t it? 🙂

  5. It’s a great commercial, and you’re absolutely right about the best reaction, of course. I just hope, if that should ever happen to me, that I’ll have rehearsed it enough in my mind to be just that calm about it. By the way, I love your blog and have recommended it to so many people over the years. Thanks so much!

  6. Thanks for passing on my blog, m!

    And yes, remaining calm can be one of the hardest things that parents do – and of course, also the most important.

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