Ok, it’s time to take a deep, DEEP breath and brace yourselves, because if you’re a little sheepish this is gonna get real uncomfortable REAL quick.
At some point, we’re all probably going to have to have the masturbation chat with our kids. I know, I know, the idea can be SO confronting, but the way we approach this with our little people is actually really important. As uncomfortable as it is to think about, our sons and daughters are likely, at some point, to discover that touching their bits feels good. A way to look at this is to ask yourself – how did you discover that touching your genitals felt good? Chances are, you discovered this through masturbation in your younger years; so why would they be any different?
According to website Ask Dr Sears, most children begin touching or playing with their genitals between the ages of two and six years old. Many children will soon discover that massaging their genitals feels good and for them, that pleasure comes with no labels. This is why the way we talk to our kids about it is so crucial. Labelling masturbation as a “wrong” or “dirty” act can influence their relationships with not only their own bodies, but their future sexuality and relationships. Dr Sears says, “Understand that the desire to use one’s body parts for pleasure is part of normal sexual development. While it is not necessary to masturbate to have a positive self-image, enjoying one’s body parts contributes to developing healthy sexuality and liking one’s body.”
So, we know it’s totally normal and developmentally appropriate, but how do we actually talk to our kids about it? It can be a bit confronting if your child is going hell for leather in front of you, but because of their innocence around the subject they might just think that doing it in front of other guests in the lounge room is no biggie. According to sexuality educator and author of Sex & Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense about Sex Deborah Roffman, “First, parents should acknowledge to the the child the behaviour is a normal part of the child’s healthy growth and sexual development. Then you introduce the concept of privacy by saying, ‘I see you really like doing that, but people don’t touch their genitals in front of other people because those are parts we keep private. Let’s talk about some private places where it would be perfectly OK to touch your genitals.'” This is also a great way to extend on conversations about ‘private parts’ and that no one else is allowed to touch them.
Child Psychiatrist Dr Joshua Sparrow says that the most common times children engage in masturbation is when they’re bored, stressed or tired just prior to sleep. “If a child is feeling frightened or alone or scare, [masturbation or genital touching] is a soothing behaviour,” says Deborah Roffman. “If children are upset, they touch themselves in a away that makes them feel good or relaxed like thumb-sucking. It is a normal way children deal with those feelings.”
Look, for some of us this will be an easy and natural conversation but for others, it can be a little tricky to navigate. The main thing to remember is that it’s totally natural and appropriate behaviour for our kids to engage in and no matter how squeamish it might make you, it’s really important to stay calm when speaking to your child about it. Let them know that while it’s absolutely ‘normal’, it’s also totally private and for them only.
Good luck and may the force be with you.
Have you had to have ‘the chat’ with your kids yet?
Bron McCahon, former editor of Aussie Cosmo, and Monty chat about the difference between raising boy and girl in the podcast below. Have a listen below, then skip on over here to subscribe to our podcast for more incredible chats.