Curiosity and Sexual Touching With Young Children

Question: “I have a 6 year old daughter who is curious about her body. She unfortunately does not know what to do with that. She was caught earlier this year at school with a couple of boys in the bathroom touching each others genitalia. Then just recently she had another occurrence with another boy that was very similar. My wife and I are unsure how we can trust her, and what we should say to her to let her know how serious this issue is. I asked her how she felt when she thought about that, she said she felt bad, I tried to explain that she was feelings promptings that she should not do this, but I don’t know where to go from here. Any suggestions?”

Answer: I appreciate your inquiry. Your post indicates that your daughter has had two encounters with boys in which there was sexual touching. Many children at that age are curious and know of the ‘secret’ or ‘private’ parts of their bodies, even at six years old. I am presuming from her age that she is in either kindergarten or first grade. It is not uncommon for parents to find six year old boys playing with their genitals or making jokes about their penis or being curious about one anothers body parts. My concern is not her curiosity at this point, as that is normal. My concern is her curiosity had moved to exploring with multiple boys. You did not mention how old the boys were but even if they were her own age, 6, you have reason to be concerned. When I say concerned, I mean that teaching and helping her have a sense of boundaries and privacy is in short order. I would suggest speaking to her about the nature of our bodies and the sacredness of them. Speaking less about morality at this point and more about commandments and boundaries would be key. I would also find out what she did with the boys as well.  It is important to remember that guilt is normal as she feels according to your post, ‘bad’ for what she did. Ensure you let her discomfort with it be the end of it, and don’t shame her.  Guilt is the feeling that she did something wrong, and shame is guilt with an added layer of  “I am a bad and flawed me.”  Shame is toxic and can influence self-esteem and future relationships with boys and others. So, ensure you discuss her feelings and help her see that boundaries were crossed and that the touching was not appropriate. Ensure that you do not shame her during this process and reassure her that we all make mistakes and that you still love her and think she is a wonderful little girl. Your tone, body posture, and word usage will convey this love and reassure her that she can trust your constant love. Teach her to respect herself and others by establishing appropriate boundaries in the future.

Resources: CD/Activity books focused on teaching children to protect their minds and respect their bodies: http://www.britemusic.com/safety-kids-3-protect-their-minds-cd and http://www.britemusic.com/safety-kids-1-personal-safety-cd