How much affection do you show hubby when the kids are around? Do you hold hands or hug and kiss each other when you know they are watching? If you have young kids, you’re probably wondering how public displays of affections (PDA) affect and influence their minds, but experts will be the first to reassure you that showing affection toward your partner in front of your little ones is perfectly healthy.
“[It’s] important for building secure attachment and reinforcing social-emotional development in babies and toddlers,” Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., LMT, a licensed psychotherapist from Santa Monica, California, tells What to Expect.
4 good reasons why you should show affection to your partner in front of your kids
By openly showing affection toward one another — like holding hands, hugging each other, giving each other quick pecks on the cheek or mouth, saying ‘I love you’, and being nice toward one another — you’re teaching your kids what a healthy relationship looks like. This helps make them feel more safe, secure and loved.
More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to teach your kids early on about consent, touch, and more. It also shows them how to love others in a healthy and respectful manner, and to be loved in a similar way in return. Here are more reasons why a little PDA in front of the kids won’t hurt.
1. PDA demonstrates that affection is normal and healthy.
Touch leads to positive feelings — we use it to communicate positive messages of caring. Studies have shown that hugs can increase the release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone, and lower levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone. Just like how you would comfort your crying child, hugging your spouse in front of the kids shows how much you care for each other.
2. PDA shows kids that affection between adults who are in love looks different from the affection between kids and parents.
Children need to be able to distinguish between a platonic touch and a potentially sexual touch in order to protect themselves from people taking advantage, but how will they know if they can’t see a difference? Parents showing a little PDA can help with that. “When you give affection to your partner and talk about it with your child, you’re introducing one of the most natural, warm, and kind ways you can begin teaching your kids about sexuality,” writes Steven Ing, a marriage and family therapist, for SheKnows.
3. Affection boosts a child’s sense of security and builds their confidence.
Kids model their behavior from what they see at home and in public. You have to make sure that what they see at home are positive interactions so it can add up to an environment where they feel safe and secure. “Even though your kids might pretend to gag when they see you and your spouse kiss, deep down it makes them feel more secure,” says Amy McCready, founder of Positive Solutions, to Romper. “When Mom and Dad are happy together, it creates a happier family.”
4. Showing your kids how much you love your partner models a loving behavior that they can emulate when they grow up.
“Witnessing physical affection between [kids’] parents reassures them that their parents love one another. It also helps teach kids about love, marriage, and affection which can prepare them for their future relationships,” shares Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, and outpatient therapist, to SheKnows.
Just be careful about showing PDA that’s sexual in nature. “Going over the top will make your kids feel uncomfortable and confused,” Cindy Bunin, a marriage and family therapist, and child development specialist tells SheKnows. “If children see and hear love-making as a constant, they may think that that is what relationships are all about and may get involved premature in sexual relationships.” Establish boundaries so your child won’t imitate inappropriate touching, kissing, and hugging with her friends or to other adults.
As long as you don’t go overboard, there’s no need to restrain yourself from showing your partner a little bit of affection. Your love for each other makes your children feel safer and can help them form healthy relationships in the future. So don’t stress it!