PDAs in front of the kids: Good idea, but keep it G-rated

Amy McCready
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Showing affection for your spouse in front of your kids helps teach them what a healthy relationship looks like. But don't go overboard with the PDAs! Five tips for keeping the love alive without totally grossing out your kids.

By Amy McCready, Positive Parenting Solutions founder and TODAYMoms contributor

Valentine’s Day is almost here, and love is in the air. The problem is, every time you show affection to your spouse, you get a chorus of “Ew, gross!” from the kids.

Kids may not like it when their parents hug and kiss, but they still need to see it. On the other hand, it’s important not to go overboard in front of them. Read on to see the “why’s” and “how’s” of public displays of affection in front of your kids.

There are lots of reasons why PDAs are good for everyone in the house. Home is the best place for your kids to learn what a loving relationship looks like — and hugs and kisses are a big part of that, even for parents. What’s more, if your kids watch any TV, they are likely very familiar with what an unhealthy relationship looks like. When you openly show affection to your spouse, you give them a much better example of the care and respect they should expect. And remember that even though your kids might pretend to gag when they see you and your spouse kiss, deep down it makes them feel more secure. When Mom and Dad are happy together, it creates a happier family.

On the other hand, it’s certainly possible to go overboard. Be sure you’re not acting overtly sexual in front of your kids — it crosses a boundary, making them feel uncomfortable and even scared. Think about whether the affection you show your spouse might garner a “Get a room” response from another adult. If so, it’s time to dial it down. And since kids take their relationship cues from us, avoid anything you wouldn’t want your teenager doing with his girlfriend. Keep anything sexual — whether verbal or physical — private.

Most parents report showing less affection toward each other than they did before they had kids. Here are five suggestions for demonstrating your love for your spouse in front of your kids:

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1. Hold hands more. Let your kids see this simple sign of affection when you’re driving in the car, walking somewhere or watching a movie.  Seeing that Mom and Dad still care about each other is comforting and reassuring to kids who live in a world filled with negative family images.

2. Kiss and hug spontaneously. Surprise your partner with a kiss (keep it rated G) or a giant bear hug when he’s not expecting it.

3. Say “I love you” to your spouse in front of your kids. 

4. Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal, leave notes on the bathroom mirror, or scrape the ice from his car on a cold morning. PDAs can take many forms, and your kids will notice!

5. Give back rubs or shoulder rubs when they’re not expected.  You’ll be the hero with your partner and your kids will see how loving people take care of each other.

This Valentine’s Day, remember that being affectionate with your spouse shows everyone in your house how much you care. So even if your kids run screaming from the room, give your spouse a big kiss. Rated G, of course.

Amy McCready is the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and mom to two boys, ages 12 and 15. Positive Parenting Solutions provides online education for positive discipline know-how and parenting peace. For free training resources, visit: www.PositiveParentingSolutions.com