How to discuss sex with your child

How to discuss sex with your child

In most Indian households, any conversation surrounding sex is dealt with alarming levels of taboo. As a consequence, most teenagers gorw up without appropriate sex ed, leading them to assuming facts or consulting unreliable sources to get the information. Giving children a medium and an open forum to talk with comfort and ask questions can make a considerable difference and consequently have them be better informed. Parents can indulge in short conversations that will normalise the child’s over all outlook towards sex and information around it. We have a few topics that can provide you with a dynamic start to keep the conversation going until your teenager is comfortable and confident with the knowledge. The exercise will help foster an informed and safe environment for your child.

Start With The Obvious: The Birds And The Bees Talk

The first step to sex education should be to tell your children that communication is vital, and so is consent. A person can and should be able to choose their partner based on independent reasons and not on coercion. Teenagers should be made aware that there are boundaries to everything and should be respected. A child should be made to feel safe by making them aware of their rights and wrongs.

In a society where hetero representation is in abundance and LGBTQIA+ representation can hardly be even called that, it is essential for impressionable minds to understand from their parents that such relationships exist and there is nothing wrong with being in one. Conversations about sexuality can be overwhelming due to the large spectrum it represents, but having the basic knowledge that feeling a certain way for any gender or experience is okay should be normalised.

The stigma around menstruation has existed for the longest time, and it’s about time we take steps to get rid of it. Even though menstruation is something we (girls, largely) are taught in classrooms, many teenagers hesitate to voice their questions and doubts. At home, the child is free to ask questions and will feel more comfortable asking questions. Over the years, the availability of period products has increased and brought about helpful changes. Girls should be encouraged to explore their choices and use what suits them best. Boys should be made aware of the reasons and conditions, and taught to be suitably considerate and helpful towards girls about it.

How to talk to your kids;
Advice from psychologists,
teens, and more.

By Matti Gershenfeld and Timothy J. Hollis published December 31, 1969 – last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Advice from an ad hoc faculty on the complicated matters of heart, mind, body, and soul.

Q: YOU SUSPECT YOUR 16-YEAR-OLD IS HAVING SEX. WHAT SHOULD YOU SAY OR DO?

I think the first thing you need to do is ask yourself what is the evidence? Have you found your child necking? Has your daughter come to you asking about your gynecologist? A boyfriend, girlfriend, or your child asking you questions about sex is not enough evidence for you as the parent to be questioning your child.

If you do have enough evidence to believe your child is sexually active, there are a few rules to remember: Look your child directly in the eyes and talk, do not scream at them. If you are embarrassed to talk about sex, practice in front of a mirror first. One of the worst things you can do is tell them you can’t handle the situation.

This may be the time to talk about real choices–such as what type of birth control they are going to use. It is also time to let them know you are not pleased with their decision to have sex and encourage them to wait. Chances are that a child who is having sex at 16 is probably going to end up getting hurt.

–Matti Geshenfeld, Ph.D.

President, Couples Learning

Center Philadelphia, PA

Sixteen is too late! Kids need parents to talk openly and honestly with them from a very young age. This is not a pre-AIDS society that can pretend to be separate from the rest of the world. Kids need to be comfortable with their selves and their sexuality long before they practice it.

Teenagers are the fastest rising risk group for AIDS. We need to confront our own fears about AIDS and stop projecting them on our children. Their lives are at stake.

Children must be lovingly approached and taught the beautiful and ugly sides of human sexuality. They must know the responsibilities that go along with sexual relations before they have children themselves. We all know this is a different world. We must face it with the utmost courage and honesty.

Timothy J. Hollis

I would sit them down and have a nice little heart to heart. First, I would talk about physical risks. Then I would talk about emotional risks like where they thought the relationship was going. I’d also talk about birth control be cause although I’d prefer they wait, it is better to be safe than sorry

I know kids because I am a kid and I know that, it they want to have sex, they will. But most important, I’d let them know I would love them no matter what they do.

P.S. Don’t lecture. Lectures are stupid and when they are given, kids usually end up doing the opposite anyway!

Kathryn Christensen, 16

Apple Valley, NM

I would say that I hoped that it was planned, consensual, nonexploitive, and protected. I would express regret that he/she did not wait until he/she was older, surer, wiser. would tell him/her that I hoped that now and hereafter his/her love relations are characterized by mutual respect, caring, and kindness. and that they spoke about it and thought about it.

Jane M. Johnson, MSW

Federation of America

It’s important to talk to children about sexuality–which includes much more than the biology of reproduction–on a regular basis well before they reach adolescence. These discussions should reflect the child’s level of maturity and should include issues of responsibility, why we don’t force people to do things against their will, contraception, and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. This makes it easier for teenagers to talk about their own sexual feelings.

If I suspected my 16-year old were sexually active, I’d discuss several issues we’d talked about in the past. Are they using condoms and another form of birth control every time? Are either of them feeling exploited or manipulated? What do they want out of the relationship? What will they do in the event of pregnancy? How else might they be able to express their feelings for each other?

–Lawrence Kutner, Ph.D.

School, Cambridge, MA

Use a condom and don’t f**k with your shoes on.

Editor in Chief, tricycle:

The Buddhist Review

First off, parents shouldn’t hesitate to let their child know their opinion on the subject. You can’t control your teenager’s behavior, but you have a right to express your thoughts about what he or she is doing. And while your daughter or son may not ask you directly, he or she may need and want your guidance and benefit from your experience. What’s key is presenting what you have to say in the right way. You might say, “I’d always hoped you’d wait until you were older and in a caring, committed relationship before you had sex” (if that’s how you feel), or “I’d always hoped that you’d be using birth control when you had sex.” This approach is particularly appropriate if you’re not certain your child actually is having sex. It’s nonaccusatory and nonconfrontational.

If you are sure your child is having sex, whether or not you approve, it’s important to get past your own feelings and make sure he or she understands how important it is to be responsible about using birth control and protection from sexually transmitted diseases. While it’s disappointing that your child may be doing something against your wishes, it’s much sadder to be confronting an unwanted pregnancy or a terminal illness.

If I suspected my 16-yearold were having sex, I would remind him or her that they are responsible for their actions. I would talk to them about the importance of using a condom with another form of birth control to prevent disease and pregnancy. I would also explain that their actions could affect a third person if there is a pregnancy, and ask if they’re ready for that.

Last, I would explain that they should not pressure anyone or feel pressured to have sex. And if they had any questions or news to tell, I would let them know I was available.

Talking to Your Kids About STDs

It is important for parents to talk to their kids and teens about STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Your kids need to understand how STDs spread and how to protect themselves.

What Are STDs?

STDs (also called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs) are infections that spread through sex (vaginal, oral, or anal). Some STDs can spread through close contact with the genitals or body fluids.

Does Talking About Sex and STDs Make Teens More Likely to Have Sex?

Talking to kids and teens about sex and STDs does not make it more likely that they’ll have sex. But if they do become sexually active, they will understand the risks and know how to protect themselves.

When Should I Talk to My Kids About STDs?

Talking about STDs and other personal subjects like sex and puberty shouldn’t be one big talk at a particular age. Instead, start the conversation early, and slowly build on your child’s understanding. By about 10–13 years old, most kids understand what sex is and are ready to learn about STDs.

But even if your child is older and you haven’t started talking about STDs, it’s not too late to have the conversation. A late talk is better than no talk at all.

How Do I Bring Up the Subject of STDs?

Sometimes it can be hard to find the right time to talk about STDs. A good time to start the conversation might be:

  • if your child asks questions about sex
  • during a TV show or movie that shows a romantic relationship. You might ask, “What sorts of things do people in a relationship need to think about?”
  • when your child gets the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. You could say, “This shot protects you from a type of STD. Do you know what an STD is?”

What Should I Talk About?

Talk about the types of STDs:

Cover these key points:

  • STDs mainly spread through sex. But some STDs can spread through close contact with someone’s genitals or body fluids.
  • The best way to completely prevent an STD is to not have sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.
  • Some people with an STD have discharge from the vagina or penis, or sores in the genital area.
  • Some people with an STD have no signs or symptoms. Even then, a person can spread the infection to a sexual partner.
  • If someone has an STD and does not get treatment, it can lead to medical problems such as long-term pain and trouble getting pregnant later.
  • Antibiotics can cure some STDs (like chlamydia and gonorrhea). But some STDs (like herpes or HIV) have no cure.
  • You can get an STD the very first time you have sex.

Where Can We Get More Information About STDs?

You can get reliable information about STDs at:

  • Teenshealth.org
  • your doctor’s office
  • organizations like Planned Parenthood
  • the school nurse or counselor

What if I Have Trouble Talking to My Kids About STDs?

If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your kids about STDs, make sure they can turn to someone else for accurate information. This could be a doctor or , counselor, school nurse, teacher, or a trusted family member.

Kids and teens need to know about STDs. It’s best if they get the facts from someone reliable.

What to do when you haven’t done “it” in a long time

by Dr. Pepper Schwartz, AARP | Comments: 0

Has your relationship ended up in a sexual desert? Perhaps the two of you went through a rough patch (often occasioned by a health scare) and stopped making love. Then — even though you never imagined a dry spell could become the prevailing climate — that desert began to seem too vast to cross. So how do you end the drought?

How to discuss sex with your child

First step to regaining physical intimacy with your partner? Making time to talk about it.

As a professional sex researcher and relationship coach, I’ve heard from many people who resist broaching the subject with their partner because they fear rejection. A man in his late 60s, for example, told me his wife turns her back as soon as he slips between the sheets — the unmistakable message being “Don’t even think about it.” A couple in their mid-50s revealed they hadn’t slept together in 11 years; first he had an operation, then they had marital issues, and before long their sex lives had become history, not current affairs. And don’t think the disappointment dims with the decades: A man of 80 recently disclosed his sadness at the fact that his wife had stopped wanting sex.

More on Sex

  • Why long-married couples are splitting up
  • 7 steps to resolving sexual desire differences
  • How sex changes for men after 50

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Suspending sex may not be all that uncommon for a couple, but rarely are both members willing to say good-bye to the practice for good. At least one partner likely feels cheated, even betrayed; wasn’t sex supposed to be part of that whole “till death do us part” deal?

It can be difficult to end a sexual drought, but it’s not impossible. If the situation is dire, see a therapist: A skilled professional can tease out why the sex stopped, and what it might take to resume it. She or he can help each partner let go of whatever fears or grudges may be keeping sex at bay. Just as helpful, the therapist can prescribe exercises designed to slowly reintroduce physical contact — an approach I recommend. (Qualified therapists can be located through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.)

If you prefer not to involve a therapist, try this gradual, step-by-step method yourselves:

Schedule a chat. Ask your partner to set aside a time to talk about your sex life (or lack thereof). If your partner balks, you may have to press. “It’s not optional,” you can point out. “I would do something this important for you if you asked me.” Unless your relationship is in tatters on all fronts, this should get you permission to discuss it. If there are medical issues — a bad hip, perhaps, or heart-attack concerns — agree to see a doctor for an exam (and, most likely, some reassurance).

Make contact. Hold hands while you have this discussion. You’ll find the physical connection calming: It forges a bond that mere words cannot.

Take it easy. Start the conversation with kind and loving language. Say how much you love your partner, how attractive she or he is, how much you’re looking forward to touching (and being touched by) him or her. Explain that you’d like to start with cuddling and then massage. A little snuggling should make an easy first step for both parties.

Try nonsexual massage. Experiment with “sensate focus” — a Masters and Johnson technique in which one partner gently strokes the other’s naked body, back and front, each person learning how to touch and be touched again. As you vary the pressure of your touch, you give and get feedback on what feels good; however, there is no attempt to arouse the other person with genital touching. Instead, the goal is a sensual experience that builds trust (and comfort with physical interaction). Do as many sessions as you need to feel comfortable — and to find yourself craving more.

Clear the decks for action. You may need to buy a lubricant or a vaginal moisturizer to repair tissues. It may be necessary to get medical advice on erectile or medication issues. There are more solutions to physical problems than you can imagine.

Go a-courtin’. Flirt with each other during the day or at a dinner out. Say nice things about the sensate-focus exercises. Put on music. Dress up. Drink a glass of something festive. Set a positive mood.

Aim low. When you feel ready to make love, remove the stress by lowering expectations. Assure one another that this is just a start — the encounter need not include intercourse or orgasms. Agree that the main event is to give each other pleasure again. Then let yourselves cross whatever wasteland has been keeping you apart.

Do it till you’re satisfied. Now comes the fun part: Practice what you’ve learned — and don’t wait too long to make love again!

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  • Quiz: What problems do low-income seniors face?

See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more.

How to discuss sex with your child

  • Why it happens
  • What to do

Why it happens

Young children masturbate for the same reason that older children (and adults) do: It feels good! Body exploration is part of growing up.

Your child is learning to run, jump, throw, pump a swing, draw, and (probably) use the toilet regularly. She may be just as curious about her genitals as she is about her fingers, toes, and belly button – and if she’s recently switched from diapers to underpants, she may be able to get to them for the first time.

“When parents first see this kind of exploration, they wonder ‘is this normal?'” says Meg Zweiback, a nurse practitioner and family consultant in Oakland, California. “The answer is yes. You don’t need to be concerned.”

What to do

Don’t panic. Masturbation is a completely normal thing to do. It doesn’t cause physical harm, pose a health risk, or mean your child is going to turn into a sex maniac. Masturbation in young children isn’t sexual (as it is for adults) because young children don’t know what sex is.

And although explicit sex play in older children is often a tip-off to sexual abuse or exposure to inappropriate sexual material, this is extremely unlikely to be the case with young children. They simply don’t have the imaginative skills for this kind of behavior. (A young child who’s been sexually abused is more likely to become withdrawn or suddenly have trouble sleeping.)

That said, young children masturbate because it feels good, and the good feelings can be as pleasurable for her as they are for adults. “A child may masturbate herself to orgasm,” says Zweiback “complete with panting, red face, and a big sigh at the end. But it’s absolutely not something to be worried about.”

Of course, just like anything else, when it comes to masturbation too much of a good thing may indicate a problem. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your child masturbates constantly or excessively, it may be a sign she’s feeling anxious, emotionally overwhelmed, or isn’t getting enough attention at home. If you think this may be the case, check in with her doctor for advice.

Ignore it. You may have already told your child that some of her parts are private, and that only she, her parents, or a doctor may touch them. Many parents attempt to explain privacy to children as a way to head off sexual abuse, and it seems logical to extend this concept to masturbation. But it may not sink in for your child.

“Privacy means nothing to an ‘under 3,'” Meg Zweiback says. “It’s not a meaningful concept.” And, she adds, “A child this age by nature is looking to push buttons, so if you start drawing attention to it, you’ll probably just get her to do it more.” Your best bet is to look the other way or immerse yourself in a distracting activity.

Distract her. Even though you know it’s normal and lots of children do it, you’ll probably still be embarrassed if your child starts masturbating in front of company. If you can’t ignore it or laugh it off, distraction is your best bet. Masturbation is a lot like nose-picking — she does it because she’s bored, because her hands are free, and because she can.

If your child’s hands stray toward her crotch at inopportune moments (in front of your in-laws, for example) keep a toy close by to give her instead. Invite her to do a puzzle, play with blocks, or toss a ball around – anything that keeps her hands out of her pants.

Look to yourself. Parents’ reactions to masturbation may pose the greatest danger for kids. If your child is made to feel guilty for exploring her body, or made to feel that what she’s doing is dirty or naughty, she may associate sexual or pleasurable feelings with guilt and shame.

“If a parent is really bothered by it,” Zweiback says, “it says more about what the parent learned growing up than it does about the child. Lots of people grow up with conflicting feelings about sex, and finding a place where you can talk these feelings through with other adults will help you handle these issues now and in the future.”

Adult children and elderly parents should have a thorough discussion, from privacy concerns to division of chores, before combining households.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the November 2010 issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.

When Mike Repak’s father was ill, neighbors checked in on his mother, Marie, at her home in Rochelle Park, N.J. She had mild dementia and needed rides to get around. After Repak’s father died, Repak, an estate-planning lawyer, and his wife, Debra, a teacher, considered moving Marie, then 88, into an assisted-living facility near them.

But the couple decided they wanted her to live with them and their two teenagers. “It was going to be a big adjustment for her without Dad around,” says Repak, now 53. “We wanted her to feel like she was part of a family.”

The Repaks built an addition to their home in Churchville, Pa., with a living room, bedroom and bathroom. The couple and the kids often ate with Marie in her living area. “It was nice for our children to see that families can take care of their members,” says Repak, whose mother spent the last two years of her life with them. The couple hired a home health aide to make her meals and take her to doctor’s appointments while they were at work.

Twentysomething “boomerang” kids who are moving back home seem to get all the headlines. Less recognized is another trend: seniors moving in with their adult children and even their grandchildren. Twenty percent of individuals 65 and older lived in a multigenerational household in 2008, up from 17% in 1990, according to the Pew Research Center.

Melding households can be a positive experience for everyone. The family can bond while playing games and eating meals. “Look at this as an opportunity,” says Amy Goyer, AARP’s family expert. “You have a chance to enjoy your mom or dad in their later years. This is a way for children to know their grandparents in a way they wouldn’t otherwise.”

But before moving in with your adult son or daughter, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll feel comfortable living in someone else’s home. You’ll no longer rule the roost as you did when your child was a child. “Do you get along? You may love someone, but do you like them?” says Sharon Graham Niederhaus, co-author of Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living (M. Evans & Co., $17).

Also imagine day-to-day life with grandchildren, and maybe pets. “If you have no tolerance for noise, do you want to move into a house with children or teenagers?” says Jennifer Prell, president of Silver Connections, an elder-resource network in Cary, Ill.

Meanwhile, the adult child needs to be prepared for the drain of time, energy and possibly money that could come with having one or two parents move in. The new arrangement could also put a strain on your marriage. And if a parent needs caregiving, you’ll need to be realistic about what that entails. “Families generally underestimate the amount of care that Mom is going to require,” says Kerry Peck, an elder-law attorney in Chicago. “Even if Mom moves in relatively healthy, that could change overnight.”

Talk Through All Issues

Before making a decision, the two generations should discuss all the issues, from privacy concerns to the division of chores. Sit down and ask, Goyer says, “What are everyone’s expectations? What are you uncomfortable about?” Once the families are combined, meet regularly to air any concerns.

If Mom likes to cook but her son-in-law runs the kitchen, perhaps she can cook on weekdays while he cooks on weekends. Maybe Dad gets a TV in his room, so the adult children — or the teens — can use the family room to watch their favorite programs. Perhaps you prefer a light meal at 5 p.m., while your daughter-in-law and son eat a big dinner at 7 p.m. In that case, plan to eat one meal together each week.

The adult child needs to set boundaries. For instance, is Grandpa allowed to tell the teenage son to turn off the TV and do his homework? And what if the teenage son talks back to Grandpa?

The older parent, too, must set limits. Maybe Grandma is glad to babysit once a week, but she doesn’t want to become a granny nanny. And she’s likely to make friends or find a close companion. “Granny might not move in and want to start knitting,” says Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a membership group. “She may want to go dancing or have a male friend.” Consider creating a private entrance. Or perhaps Mom can schedule her bridge games when the kids are at school.

Until November 2009, Laurel Files, 71, lived in a condo in Chapel Hill, N.C., about a ten-minute drive from her older daughter, son-in-law and their two young children in Durham. When the family considered buying a bigger house, her son-in-law asked her to buy it with them.

In November 2009, Files and her 17-year-old adopted daughter moved in with the family. “My only requirement was that I live on the ground floor, so I wouldn’t have to run up and down stairs,” she says. She has the master suite and her own bathroom.

The busy family and Files, a professor at the University of North Carolina, often go their own ways. They eat many meals together, and she participates in the family’s weekly movie night.

When Files had hip-replacement surgery in June and couldn’t drive for six weeks, the family members shopped for her. “It confirmed that it was a good decision,” she says.

The family divides chores by doing whatever needs to be done. Files’s older daughter, who is 43, does most of the laundry, but Files offers to help. “I say sometimes I feel I’m in your house, and she says sometimes I feel I’m in your house,” Files says.

Files’s grandchildren, who are 7 and 10, will ride their scooters in and out of her room. “It’s like living in the Toys “R” Us annex here,” Files says. She notes that she tends to be orderly, “but it’s an adjustment I was willing to make.”

Hit the money issue head on. “Have a candid conversation with Mom or Dad,” says Thomas Scanlon, a certified public accountant at Borgida & Company, in Manchester, Conn. “Are they able to sustain themselves? Or will the child need to subsidize some of their expenses?”

It’s likely that a parent who has sold a house will be able to pay expenses. Together you should determine a fair amount for the parent to pay for meals, utilities, cable costs and phone bills, and even for a home addition. “It makes the parent feel not as much as an intruder, but a partner in the space,” says Ronald Fatoullah, an elder-law attorney in New York City.

Files, her daughter and son-in-law placed all their names on the deed and mortgage. Her daughter handles the bills, and Files pays half of everything. The only area they don’t track is spending on groceries. “I shop sometimes. They shop sometimes,” Files says.

Another issue is figuring out what to do with the parent’s furniture and other possessions. “If a senior moves into a son or daughter’s house and tries to take it over with their stuff, there’s going to be a problem,” says Prell. A parent should consider putting his or her possessions in storage for a six-month trial period of living with the adult child.

How to discuss sex with your child

  • Why it happens
  • What to do

Why it happens

Young children masturbate for the same reason that older children (and adults) do: It feels good! Body exploration is part of growing up.

Your child is learning to run, jump, throw, pump a swing, draw, and (probably) use the toilet regularly. She may be just as curious about her genitals as she is about her fingers, toes, and belly button – and if she’s recently switched from diapers to underpants, she may be able to get to them for the first time.

“When parents first see this kind of exploration, they wonder ‘is this normal?'” says Meg Zweiback, a nurse practitioner and family consultant in Oakland, California. “The answer is yes. You don’t need to be concerned.”

What to do

Don’t panic. Masturbation is a completely normal thing to do. It doesn’t cause physical harm, pose a health risk, or mean your child is going to turn into a sex maniac. Masturbation in young children isn’t sexual (as it is for adults) because young children don’t know what sex is.

And although explicit sex play in older children is often a tip-off to sexual abuse or exposure to inappropriate sexual material, this is extremely unlikely to be the case with young children. They simply don’t have the imaginative skills for this kind of behavior. (A young child who’s been sexually abused is more likely to become withdrawn or suddenly have trouble sleeping.)

That said, young children masturbate because it feels good, and the good feelings can be as pleasurable for her as they are for adults. “A child may masturbate herself to orgasm,” says Zweiback “complete with panting, red face, and a big sigh at the end. But it’s absolutely not something to be worried about.”

Of course, just like anything else, when it comes to masturbation too much of a good thing may indicate a problem. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if your child masturbates constantly or excessively, it may be a sign she’s feeling anxious, emotionally overwhelmed, or isn’t getting enough attention at home. If you think this may be the case, check in with her doctor for advice.

Ignore it. You may have already told your child that some of her parts are private, and that only she, her parents, or a doctor may touch them. Many parents attempt to explain privacy to children as a way to head off sexual abuse, and it seems logical to extend this concept to masturbation. But it may not sink in for your child.

“Privacy means nothing to an ‘under 3,'” Meg Zweiback says. “It’s not a meaningful concept.” And, she adds, “A child this age by nature is looking to push buttons, so if you start drawing attention to it, you’ll probably just get her to do it more.” Your best bet is to look the other way or immerse yourself in a distracting activity.

Distract her. Even though you know it’s normal and lots of children do it, you’ll probably still be embarrassed if your child starts masturbating in front of company. If you can’t ignore it or laugh it off, distraction is your best bet. Masturbation is a lot like nose-picking — she does it because she’s bored, because her hands are free, and because she can.

If your child’s hands stray toward her crotch at inopportune moments (in front of your in-laws, for example) keep a toy close by to give her instead. Invite her to do a puzzle, play with blocks, or toss a ball around – anything that keeps her hands out of her pants.

Look to yourself. Parents’ reactions to masturbation may pose the greatest danger for kids. If your child is made to feel guilty for exploring her body, or made to feel that what she’s doing is dirty or naughty, she may associate sexual or pleasurable feelings with guilt and shame.

“If a parent is really bothered by it,” Zweiback says, “it says more about what the parent learned growing up than it does about the child. Lots of people grow up with conflicting feelings about sex, and finding a place where you can talk these feelings through with other adults will help you handle these issues now and in the future.”

Adult children and elderly parents should have a thorough discussion, from privacy concerns to division of chores, before combining households.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the November 2010 issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.

When Mike Repak’s father was ill, neighbors checked in on his mother, Marie, at her home in Rochelle Park, N.J. She had mild dementia and needed rides to get around. After Repak’s father died, Repak, an estate-planning lawyer, and his wife, Debra, a teacher, considered moving Marie, then 88, into an assisted-living facility near them.

But the couple decided they wanted her to live with them and their two teenagers. “It was going to be a big adjustment for her without Dad around,” says Repak, now 53. “We wanted her to feel like she was part of a family.”

The Repaks built an addition to their home in Churchville, Pa., with a living room, bedroom and bathroom. The couple and the kids often ate with Marie in her living area. “It was nice for our children to see that families can take care of their members,” says Repak, whose mother spent the last two years of her life with them. The couple hired a home health aide to make her meals and take her to doctor’s appointments while they were at work.

Twentysomething “boomerang” kids who are moving back home seem to get all the headlines. Less recognized is another trend: seniors moving in with their adult children and even their grandchildren. Twenty percent of individuals 65 and older lived in a multigenerational household in 2008, up from 17% in 1990, according to the Pew Research Center.

Melding households can be a positive experience for everyone. The family can bond while playing games and eating meals. “Look at this as an opportunity,” says Amy Goyer, AARP’s family expert. “You have a chance to enjoy your mom or dad in their later years. This is a way for children to know their grandparents in a way they wouldn’t otherwise.”

But before moving in with your adult son or daughter, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll feel comfortable living in someone else’s home. You’ll no longer rule the roost as you did when your child was a child. “Do you get along? You may love someone, but do you like them?” says Sharon Graham Niederhaus, co-author of Together Again: A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living (M. Evans & Co., $17).

Also imagine day-to-day life with grandchildren, and maybe pets. “If you have no tolerance for noise, do you want to move into a house with children or teenagers?” says Jennifer Prell, president of Silver Connections, an elder-resource network in Cary, Ill.

Meanwhile, the adult child needs to be prepared for the drain of time, energy and possibly money that could come with having one or two parents move in. The new arrangement could also put a strain on your marriage. And if a parent needs caregiving, you’ll need to be realistic about what that entails. “Families generally underestimate the amount of care that Mom is going to require,” says Kerry Peck, an elder-law attorney in Chicago. “Even if Mom moves in relatively healthy, that could change overnight.”

Talk Through All Issues

Before making a decision, the two generations should discuss all the issues, from privacy concerns to the division of chores. Sit down and ask, Goyer says, “What are everyone’s expectations? What are you uncomfortable about?” Once the families are combined, meet regularly to air any concerns.

If Mom likes to cook but her son-in-law runs the kitchen, perhaps she can cook on weekdays while he cooks on weekends. Maybe Dad gets a TV in his room, so the adult children — or the teens — can use the family room to watch their favorite programs. Perhaps you prefer a light meal at 5 p.m., while your daughter-in-law and son eat a big dinner at 7 p.m. In that case, plan to eat one meal together each week.

The adult child needs to set boundaries. For instance, is Grandpa allowed to tell the teenage son to turn off the TV and do his homework? And what if the teenage son talks back to Grandpa?

The older parent, too, must set limits. Maybe Grandma is glad to babysit once a week, but she doesn’t want to become a granny nanny. And she’s likely to make friends or find a close companion. “Granny might not move in and want to start knitting,” says Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United, a membership group. “She may want to go dancing or have a male friend.” Consider creating a private entrance. Or perhaps Mom can schedule her bridge games when the kids are at school.

Until November 2009, Laurel Files, 71, lived in a condo in Chapel Hill, N.C., about a ten-minute drive from her older daughter, son-in-law and their two young children in Durham. When the family considered buying a bigger house, her son-in-law asked her to buy it with them.

In November 2009, Files and her 17-year-old adopted daughter moved in with the family. “My only requirement was that I live on the ground floor, so I wouldn’t have to run up and down stairs,” she says. She has the master suite and her own bathroom.

The busy family and Files, a professor at the University of North Carolina, often go their own ways. They eat many meals together, and she participates in the family’s weekly movie night.

When Files had hip-replacement surgery in June and couldn’t drive for six weeks, the family members shopped for her. “It confirmed that it was a good decision,” she says.

The family divides chores by doing whatever needs to be done. Files’s older daughter, who is 43, does most of the laundry, but Files offers to help. “I say sometimes I feel I’m in your house, and she says sometimes I feel I’m in your house,” Files says.

Files’s grandchildren, who are 7 and 10, will ride their scooters in and out of her room. “It’s like living in the Toys “R” Us annex here,” Files says. She notes that she tends to be orderly, “but it’s an adjustment I was willing to make.”

Hit the money issue head on. “Have a candid conversation with Mom or Dad,” says Thomas Scanlon, a certified public accountant at Borgida & Company, in Manchester, Conn. “Are they able to sustain themselves? Or will the child need to subsidize some of their expenses?”

It’s likely that a parent who has sold a house will be able to pay expenses. Together you should determine a fair amount for the parent to pay for meals, utilities, cable costs and phone bills, and even for a home addition. “It makes the parent feel not as much as an intruder, but a partner in the space,” says Ronald Fatoullah, an elder-law attorney in New York City.

Files, her daughter and son-in-law placed all their names on the deed and mortgage. Her daughter handles the bills, and Files pays half of everything. The only area they don’t track is spending on groceries. “I shop sometimes. They shop sometimes,” Files says.

Another issue is figuring out what to do with the parent’s furniture and other possessions. “If a senior moves into a son or daughter’s house and tries to take it over with their stuff, there’s going to be a problem,” says Prell. A parent should consider putting his or her possessions in storage for a six-month trial period of living with the adult child.