Babies & ToddlersKidsPre-SchoolPrimary School

Tackling the topic of sexual play among children

Catching your children in the act of engaging in some form of sexual play does not mean your child is having sex with the kid next door!

The topic of sexual play among children is something most parents would rather not have – especially if you’re talking about your own child!

Catching your child in the act of indulging in sexual play with another child can be worrying. Take a deep breath and remember that this does not mean your youngster is having sex with the kid down the street!

Sexual discovery is normal

When you think about it, more than half of the adult population engaged in some type of sexual play as a child. The majority of the time, this play took the form of pretending to be a doctor, undressing in front of another child, or looking at another child undressing.

Good to know: Children of opposing genders, same genders, and even brothers and sisters participate in sexual play. It’s entirely natural behaviour.

Children are inherently curious beings

Human beings are naturally curious creatures, and one of the things we’re curious about from an early age is our own and other people’s bodies. We’re constantly comparing ourselves with others and noticing the similarities and differences. This is what the vast majority of children are doing when they are engaging in sex play. They are trying on the different roles they see around them. Sometimes these behaviours lead to touching each other’s bodies where they may discover that it feels good. This is a natural part of development.

Good to know: Remember, children do not naturally engage in any kind of sexual play which involves pain, simulated intercourse, penetration, or mouth-to-genitals.

Stay calm and cool-headed

It would not be a good idea to freak out and go on a tirade, banishing their friend(s) from the house forever and forbidding them from ever engaging in that type of behaviour again. Often parents decide to ignore the behaviour because they realise it will eventually cease, and the children will move onto other forms of play that do not involve the genitalia. If you are just not comfortable with having this type of behaviour in your home, you can calmly ask the children to stop, get dressed, and play in a more public area of the house without closed doors.

Good to know: Screaming and punishing your child for sexual play could result in feelings of shame and guilt about sexual activity for your child which could last well into adulthood.

Keep communication channels open

Regardless of what you decide to do at the moment (ignore the behaviour or stop it), this is a perfect teaching opportunity once the other child/children involved have left. This is a prime time to sit down with your child and talk about their curiosity. Let them know that this is normal and that you’re there to answer any questions they might have. It’s during this quiet talking time that it’s okay for you to let your child know that you think it would be best if they played other games and kept their clothes on.

Good to know: It’s important to talk about your values with regard to sex and relationships with your children. They also do not interact this way with other children who are more than a few years older/younger than themselves.    

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