Have Parenting Questions? Ask a Parenting Counselor for Answers
Hi there! My name is Heidi and I am a licensed psychotherapist, Child Development Center Director and former Kindergarten teacher! I hope to be of some assistance with your question today!
Most children engage in exploration of their sexuality at some point in childhood. Normal childhood sexual play is an information gathering process. Children explore — visually and through touch — each other’s bodies (for example, play doctor), as well as try out gender roles and behaviors (e.g., play house). Children involved in such explorations are of similar age and size, are generally of mixed gender; are friends rather than siblings, and participate on a voluntary basis ("I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!"). The typical feeling level of these children, in regard to sexually-related behaviors, is light-hearted and spontaneous. In natural sexual play or exploration, children often are excited, and they feel and act silly and giggly.
While some children in may feel some confusion and guilt, they do not experience feelings of shame, fear, or anxiety. The sexual behaviors of children who are engaged in the natural process of childhood exploration are balanced with curiosity about other parts of their universe as well. They want to know how babies are made and why the sun disappears; they want to explore the physical differences between males and females and figure out how to get their homework done more quickly, so they can go out and play. If children are discovered while engaged in sexual play and are instructed to stop, their sexual behavior may, to all appearances, diminish or cease, but it generally arises again during another period of the child’s sexual development.
The range of sexual behaviors in which children engage is broad; however, not all children engage in all behaviors: some may engage in none, and some may only engage in a few. The sexual behaviors engaged in may include: self-stimulation and self-exploration, kissing, hugging, peeking, touching, and/or the exposure of one’s genitals to other children, and, perhaps, simulating intercourse, (a small percentage of children, 12 or younger, engage in sexual intercourse.)
Talking with your daughter about this in terms of the over-powering nature of the incident will simply involve letting her know that if she ever feels unsafe, to tell an adult immediately... which thankfully, she did! The sexual nature of the incident itself is something that I wouldn't place too much emphasis on so that she doesn't develop feelings of shame or fear in relation to sexuality. If she has questions or wants to discuss it, listen to her. Let her know that this behavior on the part of the other child was inappropriate, and that our bodies are private and not to be touched by others in this over-powering fashion, and that you are very proud of her for seeking out help.
Re-state that her teachers are there to keep her safe, and that the kids can still be friends, as long as their play is appropriate. Reassure her that she did nothing wrong, and that it is over and you are now moving on.
I hope that the school has professionals who can look into the other child's actions to determine if this was a single incident of exploration or if this is a pattern that may require further investigation.
I thank you for using the site today and I hope this information was helpful to you! Please let me know if you'd like to discuss the situation further; I am happy to continue chatting until you are satisfied with the answer! :-)
Thank you - this helped quite a bit to calm our fears a bit of how this could affect our daughter.
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