When Kids "Play Doctor"
"My two-year-old son often fondles his genitals. Is it all right for me to draw his hand away and give him a toy to distract him? How should I cope with his behavior?"
Many years ago, parents looked with horror at childhood sex play, such as touching genitals, "playing doctor," etc.
Today, after serious psychological research, parents have come to accept the fact that a child's budding sexuality is not necessarily evil. It is a normal manifestation of growth.
However, there is still considerable confusion over the best way to react to childhood sex play. As early as ten to 12 months, a young child discovers the pleasurable sensations in handling different parts of his body. Parents who are disturbed by this behavior consult their friends, relatives, or pediatricians.
When you discover your child fondling his genitals, it is not wrong to give him a toy to distract him. What is important is that you don't show tension and anxiety. Making the child feel guilty of the act will only make him repeat the forbidden activity.
Among infants and toddlers, children aged one to two, sex play is generally accidental. During casual exploration of the different parts of their body, they experience pleasurable sensations.
Among those between three and six, however, activity is apt to be deliberate, because at this stage, children begin to experience mild sexual feelings. It is normal, then, for a child to feel curious about another child's body by suggesting that they undress and touch each other. "Playing doctor becomes a good excuse.
Parental attitudes depend a lot on their own upbringing. Those who were taught early in life that sex play is immoral and evil will pass it on to their own brood. Likewise, those who were reared in a liberal atmosphere will, as expected, adopt the same standard in their families.
Our culture frowns upon a too liberal attitude on sex matters. Every parent has a right to uphold values for themselves and their offspring. With your child, it is important that you do not evoke fear and guilt about fondling his genitals. Provide a variety of interesting activities in your home, indoors and outdoors. The presence of a responsible adult also minimizes temptations to engage in intimate games.
You may also tell your child: "I really don't want you to do that." Say it gently. This may be addressed to youngsters who are caught "playing doctor." Although as a rule, children quit promptly the moment they are seen and do not have to be told.
The most important attitude for parents to adopt is to be at ease in expressing themselves to their child. There should be no room for doubt. Your message should be crystal clear. During the early years, your children will accept your positions readily.
After the age of six and before puberty, most children become sexually inhibited. They don't engage in sexual play as often and carefully conceal it when they do.
Once the child reaches adolescence, the glandular surge of puberty heightens the sexual drive. Experimentation with sex becomes more intense. Proper parental guidance is then very important. Otherwise, the young adolescent may find it difficult to resist his sexual drive.