The medical information within this post was provided by Monica Fisher, M.D., a licensed pediatrician.
Sometimes the natural curiosity of children isn’t always lovable or healthy. When the topic of touching their privates comes up, it can be difficult to talk about it, but what can parents do in this situation?
My 7-year-old is obsessed with private parts. What can parents do? First, make sure that the child has not been abused/molested/touched inappropriately, etc. If that has not happened, then the answer depends on your opinion. Whether you view this as wrong or natural, explain your rationale to your child. You should clarify that this is inappropriate in public places.
Conversations about private parts are difficult but often necessary for proper development in children. 7-year-olds are at the age where you will have to tell them to stop doing an action you view as wrong. If you don’t, you run the risk of the problem being harder to stop later on. So the first step is to be attentive and willing to talk to your child about this issue.
Stopping Obsession with Privates at Age 7
The earlier an issue is addressed the easier the issue will be to deal with. That applies to every situation, but is most apparent with children. As young kids it is normal for young kids to touch themselves. They are just discovering themselves at this age and feel the pleasure that comes from playing with their privates.
The issue here is that if this grows unattended you may have a child touching themselves in public which is both inappropriate and could be potential scarring or embarrassing to parties involved. If your child hasn’t stopped on their own then it is important to step in. Age seven is a good time to start focusing on this.
Stopping a child from touching themselves is done mainly through oral correction. So, if you see them touching themselves, tell them to stop. Continue to remind them as you see them act this way. Explain your reasoning to your children. Phrases like, “That’s not appropriate here, (or at all)” and “Please don’t do that (here),” are simple reminders to your child that this is inappropriate.
Taking action further than this is not really appropriate what your child is discovering is a natural part of themselves it is wrong but in a manner that a child often cannot understand yet. This is why you need to explain it to them and get them to see the “why” behind what your telling them is wrong.
Talking to Your Child About Them Touching Themselves
There are two paths that you can take in this discussion. Either allowing the action of touching their privates in private or not allowing private touching at all.
Private private touching
The rationale for allowing the touching of privates all comes from the concept of discovering your body as a natural process and everything involved in that process is therefore not a problem because it is natural.
What you need to explain to your child here is that the social stigma of touching oneself is negative. Teach that this action is something your child should only do in private. When you see them doing this in public situations ask them to stop. The faster that you address this as it happens the stronger the effect is. So don’t wait until your out of the public situation try to talk to them privately about this as soon as you can.
If you find your kids touching themselves in private don’t stop them if you don’t think this is an issue. Doing so, especially if you’ve explained your reasoning to not do this as, “it’s a social problem” is hypocritical and can leave your child confused, resentful, or lead them to not listen to your advice in the future because they suspect you will contradict yourself.
The main reason to prevent your children from touching themselves at all is to prevent this problem from worsening. Masturbation and the viewing of pornography is a problem that has several marked psychological issues with it in people of all ages. However the younger this problem starts the harsher its effects are.
To prevent this having a firm stance against a child touching themselves can lead to them view masturbation as inappropriate. If this is what you believe as well then you’ll want to reinforce this throughout later years of the child’s life getting a little more specific each time. Amounting into the infamous “talk.”
If you don’t view masturbation as something your child should avoid than when you have the “talk” or other similar conversation that leads to a redefining of the concept of one touching themselves. Keep in mind that when you do this they should at youngest be thirteen as there are major psychological repercussions seen in young pre-teens, and younger when they masturbate and view pornography.
Warning Signs of Hypersexuality
Hypersexuality or sexual addiction is where a person is excessively preoccupied with their sexual fantasies. In other words, a person is overly focused on unreal imagination of sex than the reality of the world around them. It can be hard to distinguish when a child is discovering themselves naturally and when they are facing hypersexuality.
There are quite a few signs that separate a healthy discovery that a child has for their body and being too focused on their sexual fantasies.
- Excessive sexual play
- Excessive sexual word use
- Sexual play with other children
- Reenactment of sexual acts
- Public display of private parts
- Viewing pornography
- Repetitive public exposure
- Imitating sexual acts with toys
The above list is not all inclusive, something as simple as a change in sleep pattern, mood, or behavior could be from hypersexuality, but it also could be from a dozen other things. If you are concerned, be more attentive to your children, and the way they act. If you don’t see any further signs of concern then it probably isn’t something to worry about but visit a pediatrician if you are still concerned.
Dangers of Sexual Exposure at a Young Age
Being exposed to sexual scenes at a young age can lead to major consequences later on in the life of the child. The issue is with the rise of the internet and the lowering of standards in regard to what is allowed to be shown on television, in movies, and written about in other media children have more opportunities to be exposed than ever before.
The largest issue with early exposure is the warping of a child’s expectations. Pornography in particular, is a field filled with warped kinks, role plays, and other unrealistic expectations for any person involved. These warped views on sexual expectations can lead to hypersexuality, early sex, sexual violence, and high-risk sex.
To avoid this preserve your child’s youth by preventing any pornographic or sexual emphasized material from coming into their hands, at least until they are 13. These problems do not stop at the age of 13 but they have harsh consequences on someone who has not reached their teen years yet.
Prevent access to materials like this on the internet by using parental filters on computers, phones, and other electronic devices. Utilize screen time as a means of monitoring how much and how frequent the opportunities to be exposed to such things are. The media and the other adults that live with you are watching should be monitored to prevent any exposure with your kids.
Additionally, the books that are read by adults that are not appropriate for children should not be left out. Especially at the ages that are nearing their teen years. They can almost read anything that you would be reading, so don’t leave something around for them to pick up and fill their heads with inappropriate or unrealistic fantasies.
When it comes down to this issue a lot about sex and the romantic affairs of adult life need to be kept private until a child is old enough to understand them. Unfortunately, the internet is not aware of who is viewing what on specific pages. Because of this accidental exposure at a young age is very possible and can have major and lasting affect on the child later in life.
When a child is old enough, or if they exposed early it is important to talk about what it is that they saw and what sex is. Leaving situations like this up to the imagination for the child ls a major issue. By being properly guided in their exploration you can prevent any natural curiosities from turning up something that is too much for the child.
In this manner, it is often suggested to talk to your kids about pornography at age 7. It is likely that they will be exposed to it at some point so if they are aware of what it is they can turn away from it sooner than if they were to not be sure and still have their natural curiosity about such subjects.
Having a healthy relationship around awkward subjects like this can lead to a stronger bond between you and your child. It also better prepares them for what they might face in the world. Be willing to talk about it at a young age and when they are having other problems with it later on in their lives you’ll have an easier avenue to talk about them if this is a subject that hasn’t been brought up before.
Additionally, when talking about these subject use the real and appropriate terms for private parts, penis and vagina. Understanding sex is a long process so dumping a whole conversation about only when there is an issue later on in your kid’s life is not healthy, nor is exposure at a young age so spread it out and explain it as best as you can to your kids over time.
Talking to Children About Sex Based on Age
If you’re going to talk about sex throughout a child’s life you need to know what you are going to talk about. Here is a break down of what topics should be addressed in a conversation of children of different ages.
|Birth to 2||Use appropriate anatomical names for body |
|3 to 5||Teach appropriate touching, set boundaries, explain they control their body. Explain when/where being naked is appropriate|
|6 to 8||Explain the concept of not talking to strangers, of being cautious about what you share online, and explain pornography. Talk about puberty, hygiene, and menstruation.|
|9 to 12||Talk about sexism, sexualization, modesty, birth control, and the |
consequences of sharing inappropriate images.
|Teenagers||Have a conversation with your child about this. If they are|
uncomfortable talking about themselves then ask them to talk
about, “a firend at school” who is going through similar issues.
Answer their questions honestly the more respect you show them
here the more they will have for you.
How to Help a Pornography Addict
Whether this is due to early exposure or other elements it is an ever increasing problem facing society today. There are several websites that seek to point out the issues with pornography an help those facing this issue find help. Chief among them is Fight the New Drug and The Chastity Project.
Addictions, in general, are not something that person is really ever capable of fighting on their own so being there to help them is the best thing you can do. Providing distraction for them when the need it and being willing to face the honest truth of certain situations through conversation is a great way to help. Overall, the more stress that you add to the situation the further this problem can get.
Since porn, like alcohol or drugs, is used as a way to relieve pain and escape from the harsh reality of life. Leaving a person with this addiction to take care of it themselves will often lead to further stress and further reliance upon the stress relieving nature the masturbation and pornography provides you.
Is it okay for a child to be attracted to their mother? This is an incredibly common occurrence in children called the Oedipus complex by Freud. It isn’t something that you need to worry about early in a child’s life and will fade with time. If they are around ten and this problem hasn’t faded then you may want to take action against this.
Is it wrong for children to touch themselves? It is not inherently wrong for children to have the urge. It is a natural part of their body that provides pleasure. However, you will want to work it out of their lives and push for a greater understanding of what touching themselves does, and how they should respect themselves in both public and private situations.