Children's Sexual Curiosity Conversations

Written by Elizabeth Pantley

Sexual curiosity is a natural part of growing up. Learn the best ways to handle touchy toddlers.

Growing up is tough! Let parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley's special brand of parenting wisdom guide you toward a better relationship with your child.

Q:I walked into the playroom and found my child comparing private parts with a friend. They said they were playing "doctor." I yelled at them and sent the friend home. Later, I felt like I could have handled it in a better way. What should I have done?

Think about it: If you found the kids eating candy before dinner, or playing with a baseball in the house, you'd handle the situation easily. If, however, they were eating candy or playing ball with their clothes off, you'd suddenly feel confused and concerned. That's because you're viewing the situation from an adult point of view. Most times, childhood nudity and mutual curiosity is normal and natural. You just need to teach kids what's appropriate and what's not. 

Raising Self-Confidant Children
Purchase a book about sexuality and development and read it yourself before talking with your child about sex.
Is your child mimicking something he or she has seen? Take a serious look at what TV shows or movies your child is watching.
Parents need to teach kids about what is appropriate behavior and what isn't.
If you find your child engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior, lead him or her into another activity as quickly as possible.  
Stay calm:. Say something like, "It is not appropriate to play with your clothes off." Help them get dressed and find an activity to get involved in. Later, at a quiet time, have a brief conversation with your child about what is and is not appropriate. Teach that they must always keep their private areas (bathing suit areas) covered. If this happens with the same two children more than once, don't let them play together unsupervised.
Teaching time: Take the situation as a cue that your child is ready for more sex education.
Spend a brief amount of time answering questions. Let your child guide you and don't overwhelm them with too much information. Give straightforward answers in accurate, but simple terms. Address the issue of appropriate versus inappropriate touching so your child will learn how to be respectful of his own and others' privacy.
Take note: Excessive interest in sexual topics, or repeated occurrences of sexual play, may be a warning sign of other problems. There may also be cause for concern if one of the children is several years older than the other. Discuss your observations with a pediatrician, school counselor or family therapist.

Excerpted with permission by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group Inc. from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips, copyright 1999


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