Many parents may be faced with situations about their child’s sexuality and find themselves asking questions like, “What’s normal?”, “Should I be worried?” and “Does this mean my child has been abused?” Find out the contributing factors to children sexual behaviour. Here are some common behaviours that are normal for children and what may be a cause for concern.
Although we know that our children are exposed to sexual issues through the television, newspapers, and even their friends at school, let’s face it- talking about sexual issues with children can make adults uncomfortable.
Many parents may be faced with situations about their child’s sexuality and find themselves asking questions like, “What’s normal?”, “Should I be worried?” and “Does this mean my child has been abused?”
Here are some common factors that might heighten sexual behaviour in children that are normal and may be a cause for concern.
Children think it’s funny.
Listen to conversations among children and you will inevitably hear jokes about body parts and body functions. Don’t worry, this is a very normal part of child development as children learn about their bodies. However, it becomes an area of concern when a child has explicit sexual knowledge that far exceeds most children in their age group.
A child’s sexual knowledge can be influenced by their environment, media exposure and religious and cultural beliefs. However, extensive sexual knowledge can also be a sign that sexual abuse has occurred.
Very young children may be immodest.
Children who are preschool age and younger are naturally immodest. Children of this age have no concern about being nude and may prefer to be without clothing, even in public. (Just look at all the barely clothed kids running around fountains outside shopping malls!)
Very young children may also express an open curiosity about their own and other people’s bodies. If a child is persistent in wanting to explore his or her own or others bodies, behaviours will not stop even when redirected, or if a child’s behaviors reflect sexual knowledge beyond what is age appropriate, there may be cause for concern.
Children may have pretend relationships.
As children enter primary school they mature and form deeper relationships with peers. This includes a desire to understand the differences between male and female relationships. Children may explore this difference by having a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or doing what they perceive people in relationships do, like holding hands. Children usually pretend relationships with children close to their own age.
When a child seeks a relationship with someone much older or younger, or when a child is sexually aggressive to other children, this may be a sign that sexual abuse has or is occurring.