A few remarks first:
Never perform any erotic power exchange activity in front of minors, no matter how minor the activity or how "old" the minor. First of all that is illegal, secondly it is none of their business, thirdly it is nonconsensual behavior and finally, you may do some serious psychological/educational harm.
Contrary to what you may feel - most children are not really interested in their parents’ sexlife. In fact, most children don’t want to know about it. Think about what you - parent - would have felt like had you been told by your farther what - and more importantly how - he did do IT with your mother. Disgusting or uneasing thought, isn’t it? Well, ten to one your children feel the same about your sexlife. In most cases this is a situation where the parents want to tell the children, NOT the children wanting to know. You do want to consider your options. If there is no need to know, if they don’t have questions, there is no reason for you to tell.
One thing to firmly warn about at this point are alterior motives by parents. If you are planning to tell your children about your inclination because you don’t want them to be alarmed when mommy screams during a spanking your motives are DEFINITELY WRONG! Children - no matter at what age - are not supposed to hear their mother cry out in pain, especially not because of the fact daddy is giving her an erotic spanking. Children do not see and understand the differences between erotic power exchange and abuse and they WILL - no matter what you tell them - interpret it as abuse or "at best" strange parental behavior.
Any information/education about erotic power exchange or any other alternative lifestyle should be embedded in a total program for sexual education (more about this in a minute).
General sexual education is something responsible parents should get themselves involved in at a very early stage. The general opinion of the experts is that a tolerant, responsible, broad sexual education should be incorporated in the general upbringing in a natural way. I.e. bring things up when the child is up to it. When it starts asking questions about where babies come from, that is the time to start general sexual education and not the "storch" or "your daddy will tell you later" kind of stuff. A natural and neutral format for sexual education, incorporated in the total education, is widely recommended by experts. By making it a normal part of life and a normal part of the education - as opposed to turning it into an "event" - children will grow up with a more natural opinion on sexuality and will also learn to be tolerant towards those, who may have preferences outside the mainstream.
And yes, you - parent - will have to do it. No reason to leave this to school programs. You as a parent are in the front line here and whatever school or social instituation will do later can only be complementary to the education the parents did themselves. It cannot replace the parental responsibility.
There is a lot more to sexual education than "birds and bees" or the plain technical stuff. It is also about attitude towards each other, negociating your desires, understanding and tolerating others that may not share your emotions, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, norms and values, self-protection, understanding your own body and desires and responsible sexual behavior. In fact, the technical stuff comes last.
Embedding tolerance and understanding towards non-mainstream sexual activity is paramount if you want to give yourself any chance to explain about alternative lifestyles at a later stage. Embedding this is NOT the same as selling it. Your best bet is to do this just as natural as you explain the many different flavors of ice-cream, so to speak.
By all means do try to think ahead and prevent crisis situations. Children are curious and their curiosity will lead to your children finding your whips, cuffs, toys, books or pictures if you do not store them properly (i.e. behind lock and key). What you should do is try and prevent children finding books, pictures etcetera and start to fantasize about them (and tell others) without proper information and guidance. Plus, you are very likely to scare the living daylights out of them when it happens and they are not likely to tell you about the things they found and their - logical - fears and misconceptions.
If and when they find these things they will very likely not turn to you with questions, but they will talk to (and maybe show it to!!!!) their friends and it is not unlikely - depending on their individual situation - they will turn to counsel without your knowledge. That is not what you want. Unless you have created a situation where it is normal to talk about these subjects, do not expect your children to come to you. And "just" being a good parent is not enough in this area. You have to establish a situation where sexually related matters are being discussed in a normal, mature way. "You can talk to me about anything" will not do it when it comes to sexual desires, subjects and fears your children may have. You will simply have to play an active role here, "Being there" is not enough. In fact, even if there is a healthy environment, they may not turn to you because they may very well be afraid to embarrass you.
Another well known crisis is the following scene: mommy has just been tied down on the bed and little Johnny walks into the bedroom, complaining about a painful tummy. This is a scene you will first of all want to try and prevent. If you are into erotic power exchange, make it a simple family policy that the parent bedroom is off limits, that a simple knock on a door is the polite thing to do in any case and that the door may be locked on occasion, simply because mommy and daddy appreciate a little privacy on occasion.
If a situation like this ever happens - talk to your child immediately! (no matter what time of the night it is) Simply explain the situation. If you don’t you’ll run into all sorts of problems later. Remember that parents are the ultimate role models.
At what age?
It is difficult to give any general guideline about the right age to inform children about alternative forms of sexuality. One thing however is certain, there is very little use in telling them about it if there is insufficient fertile soil (in other words if more general sexual subjects have not been covered first) and if they are unable to understand what you are trying to explain. Some children - girls especially - will start to understand at the age of 14 or 15. Others - boys are slower! - will only be ready at 17 or 18. In any case, subjects like alternative lifestyles are something for a more mature age and certainly not for young children. If they are unable to understand the subject, it will be very likely your effort will turn out to be counterproductive.
Another important hing: give them time. Children, especially adolescents, go through a turmoil of sexual fantasies, uncertainties and developments between the ages of eight and fifteen. And just because girls starrt to menstruate that does not mean that boys do not have similar huge emotional steps to go through. The first wet dream has just as much impact as the first menstruation. Don’t overfeed them with information. Especially not any information that comes on top of the normal experimental phase, the hormonal changes and the growing pains. Children - adolescents especially - need time to experiment, discover their own sexuality. Your need to tell them about erotic power exchange - unless they specifically ask - is indeed your need, not theirs. Overenthousiastic plans to tell them about your inclination may heavily interfere with the development of their own sexuality and that may very well cause serious problems later.
Also, do remember that adolescents especially are extremely receptive to sexually related subjects at this age and that shame and uncertainty play a big part in their life. They are exploring. Let them - but do remember that anything you tell them now will be a HUGE IMPRINT. Here is a good example of just how big. A young - 12 year old - boy after his first wet dream was told by his mother that he had only a limited quantity of sperm available and that he was not supposed to waste any of it. This of course scared the living daylights out of him. Tenty years later it took a very experienced therapist well over three years to get this imprint out of his head. Until that point he had been too afraid to even try and make love, hence had turned impotent.
What to tell them?
Well, as we explained, children don’t want to know about the sexual activity of their parents. So you’ll have to concentrate on a more general approach: i.e. there are homosexuals, bisexuals, lesbians, people into erotic power exchange, etcetera and it is absolutely normal to have non-mainstream preferences, inclinations or fantasies. Do explain that people who will try to tell them different are simply intolerant.
Once you have fertilized the soil this way and sexual subjects have become normal subjects for your children to talk about or ask questions about (even if these questions are difficult or "abnormal") you have won three quarters of the battle. Because once you have established this situation - which is a long term strategy - not only will you have given your children a much more mature and tolerant outlook on sexuality (and they are less likely to become pregnant at an early age, run into some sort of of sexually transmitted disease or anything similar) but you will have created an environment where they will start to ask questions.
This is a long term strategy that - ideally - should start at a very early age (playing with your own sex-organ is NOT unnatural for example, all children do it and usually at a very early age). As soon as you have established a climate, where sexual subjects are just as normal as asking questions about math-tests at school, it will be likely your kids will start to ask questions. THAT is the right time to talk about erotic power exchange, because now they are receptive to it and probably up to it. Explain it to them in general terms, not as "this is what daddy does to mommy". At a later stage, again only after the soil has been prepared and fertilized, you may want to - casually - tell them know mommy and daddy are into it as well.
How to tell them?
Most experts on sexual - or any - education will tell you that education is a dual process - explaining and a bit of initiative by the educator on one end and exploration and discovery by the child on the other. Which is why any responsible sexual educator will provide written material (books or Internet information) on the subject as well as explanation, guidance and personal information. That is exactly what you should try and do. Get yourself some books (on general sexual education) and make sure these books are the tolerant, non-prejudiced kind. If and when the subject of erotic power exchange is being brought up: provide information about the subject they can read for themselves (remember that it is not unlikely they may already have done some exploration themselves), but make sure this is in a format that children or adolescents will understand. POWERotics provides information, specifically written for young adults (18 or older), about erotic power exchange here.
Again, in your role as educator take a neutral, more general approach and try to avoid your OWN personal preferences and involvement at this stage and only, casually, tell them later about the fact that you are into it as well.
In general, boys are more likely to talk to daddy about sexual issues, girls are more likely to pick mommy for this job. Hence sexual education is something BOTH parents should get themselves involved in. Not every parent is good at this. No problem, there is nothing wrong with telling your children that you have difficulty explaining this or that or that you may have to educate yourself first.
Erotic power exchange behavior
Couples will often have behavior patterns and house rules, that are the result of the power exchange dynamics between the two partners. Examples are things like the submissive always has to obey the dominant, she has limited control over money, she has to greet in a certain way and such. In principle there is nothing wrong with this, but there are some things to consider in this area.
Make sure you set the right examples for your children. You - as a parent - are the ultimate role model. If limited budget control is the system in your family, that does not have to be a problem, as long long as you explain that this is not the way everybody does this and that your daughters will have to learn to control their own budgets.
Punishments, kneeling down and over-enthousiastic house rules are out of the question when children are present. You’ll have to look for more subtle ways to make the power dynamics explicit or simply refrain from them in the presence of children. If you set the wrong role model you may create unwanted, unbalanced or unhealthy behavior patterns later and not everything can be corrected by explaining.
Finally it is not all that difficult as long as you understand that there is NO need to know from the childs’ point of view. Very likely YOU are the one wanting to explain the situation - the only question you have to ask yourself is wether or not that is productive and has anything to contribute to the childs’ upbringing and development. In general terms, general, tolerant and open-minded sexual education is GOOD. Very good. In any event - even unintentionally - projecting your needs and desires on your children is NOT GOOD.
Related Article: Please see also Ask the Therapist: SM and Kids by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
Additional Article from the Chairman of the POWERotics Foundation: Please see also Facts and Myths About BDSM Safety by Hans Meijer