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31 Responses to Sexual Play Between Children

  1. Janine  

    I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for posts like this. While not relevant to me or my family just yet, there are so few parenting sites that tackle these issues, and obviously these are hard topics. Please keep doing what you’re doing, which is helping & educating & building better, healthier families and society as result.

    • Dionna  

      Thank you Janine – this was an especially hard post to address!

    • sharon lewis

      Thank you for this post I am so relived an incident like this happened to my son he came & told me right away. I figured it was his playmates curiosity in poo he asked my 6 yr old to join he said no and told me I was clueless what to do .my husband yelled at me for not confronting the parent . his mother came to me about it & I felt we settled it. My son don’t get baby sat by anyone so I knew it wasn’t my son who came up with this she seemed embarrassed but wouldn’t admit it . glad to know my instincts were right.

  2. Leila  

    Parents, use your common sense and protect your children from the consequences of your neglect!

    The solution is simple and freak-out-free. Keep your eye on your children, don’t let them play behind closed doors, and focus on what healthy play for their age is. These little boys should be running around outside, climbing, jumping, and coming in to make roads for their toy trucks. If they are taking off their clothes and exploring their bums, they are bored and neglected.

    Always listen to what your children are telling you (underneath their words), don’t let them play at others’ houses if you aren’t sure that the parents have the same level of vigilance, and work actively to promote modest behavior. It’s fine to think about the causes of this type of behavior, but don’t over-think — these things happen, but our job is to guide our children on the right paths.

    This doesn’t happen “naturally” – it takes work — it’s called parenting. The payoff is raising human persons with self-control and a sense of self worth.

    • Dionna  

      Hi Leila, thank you for reading and commenting. I want to try to understand a little better where you are coming from – do you feel it is neglectful for any parent to leave any children playing together alone? Or are you specifically referring to this unique situation?
      If it is the latter, I must ask that we try to be gentle with this mother who is obviously hurting and reaching out for help. The fact that she a) heard the conversations (so was within earshot) and b) is seeking help tells me that she is being proactive.
      If it is the former, that you believe children should always be supervised, I’m wondering how that would work in many homes. For example, my son has several friends who come over to play frequently. In the beginning (2 yrs ago), yes – I watched them all the time. Not only were they young (older toddlers/younger preschoolers), but I also did not know what kind of play to expect from his friends after their mom left. But after regular play dates, I relaxed – I trust them. I still check in with them and keep an ear open, but it would be unrealistic for me to follow them around from room to room so they were always in sight. It would also be unrealistic to expect them to stay in one small room playing – we would all go crazy. And in our state, we often have rain and snow during the fall-spring months – we can’t always go outside.
      If I were the mother of a child who had participated in these situations, then yes, I would be much more vigilant.
      I feel like I’m not understanding your comment, so feel free to clarify!
      Most of all, we hope that NPN can be a safe, respectful place where parents can openly discuss even hard topics peacefully.

      • Mali

        Well said Dionna

      • Lakia

        Well said Dionna, as parents of very individual children its really hard to tell what’s normal and acceptable behavior. I myself have been searching the net for answers when it comes to my children and the last thing I need,or anyone for that matter, is to be preached at and told how neglectful we must be because were experiencing a situation that’s taboo. It truly takes a village. So again well said because I swear I was about to respond with a some “how dare yous” and what not. But your reply was and is perfect. Thanks

    • Amy  

      Thank you for sharing, Leila. Thank you also for asking for clarification, Dionna. I agree that we are intending to create a safe space for parents, where ever they are on their parenting journey.

      Well meaning, loving parents who value self-control and self-worth can end up in a situation like the one highlighted. I’ve talked to plenty of children and parents who have experienced sexual inappropriateness and/or abuse while not being neglectful or neglected. We’re not sure how that may or may not play into this particular situation and we address it straight on.

      In situations like this the answer may or may not be “simple and freak-out-free”. It really depends on the family and person. The mother’s concern points to her vigilance and desire to nurture healthy boundaries for her son. Thinking deeply about the situation may help her find answers and make necessary decisions, while she guides her son appropriately.

      I sincerely appreciate the helpful points of your response. It would be lovely if things like this did not happen, but they do. Please consider that children who would do things like those mentioned are not necessarily bored or neglected; they may have experienced some influence of someone who has ill intentions or allowed curiosity to go too far.

      Either way, there are non-harsh ways to express our knowledge and experience on such topics and I do hope that parents reading realize that no one has all of the answers all of the time. We do the best we can at the time with the knowledge and experience we have, learning as we go. Compassion and kindness go a long way also.

  3. Sarah @ Parenting God's Children  

    What a difficult topic to tackle – although this doesn’t pertain to my parenting journey at this point, I’m appreciative that I can count on my NPN Mentors to openly discuss these situations. I think so many times we struggle with how to deal with situations similar to this mother’s and can’t bear to bring it into the open. I like what Amy said about the importance of openly talking – what an example for our children.
    I also want to add that I think this mother did an amazing job at staying calm and continuing to love on her son, though this situation is obviously stressful. I think that would have been hard for most of us! So great job, mama! And thanks to the mentors for such well thought out responses, I pray they help!

  4. Leila  

    It’s such a wake-up call to find oneself in the situation the writer described. It happens in the best families!

    And of course, there can be more to it than just curiosity and boredom. So, as I said in my comment (which I did not intend to be harsh, so please forgive me), it’s always good to think about all the implication of things and listen to one’s children.

    It’s important to approach this issue with great prudence, making rules for oneself as the mother — and letting children play in bedrooms with the door shut is just not prudent.

    It’s actually quite natural, in one sense, for children who are completely left alone, to engage in the kind of behavior the writer describes. But it’s not good for them. To clarify, I think it can mean that something untoward has happened, but it can also be completely innocent in one sense. It might be a mistake to go looking for a deeper cause than that the children were left alone for too long, and that the door was closed, giving them a sense of detachment from adult supervision. Again, you would have to listen to what your child says very carefully.

    My only point is that if you want to avoid the situation where your child comes to be abused, then start with simple common sense. I do feel that many moms don’t realize that they should not allow children to play with doors shut!

    I think that “keep an eye on” conveys the level of scrutiny that I think would be wise — not following them around, but not completely ignoring them either!

    The times I have let myself neglect this Rule for myself, I have regretted it. I think there is a wonderful balance between giving children the room to play and have fun, with plenty of freedom, not feeling smothered with scrutiny, and making sure they are engaged in healthy, appropriate activity. I think that the parent with common sense can pull it off. The best way is to have the doors open!

    Thanks for the chance to clarify, and my dearest hope is that parents give their children freedom and sensible limits.

    • Jennifer W.  

      I think in the scenarios shared, common sense has already been applied and these events happened anyways. No one said anything about being behind closed doors: one was even in the open, outside. The mother was there and available to intervene when she felt the discussions were becoming inappropriate. So the questions answered were applied to that concept. I guess I am missing the “common sense” that would apply to the given situation? Or were your comments just a general sense, and not pertaining to this question?

    • Amy  

      Thank you for clarifying, Leila. I think “common sense” isn’t always common, meaning that since we each come with our own upbringings and such we may or may not realize shut doors can be an issue, until they are. I feel strongly about having them open, but have known people who thought that was not trusting the children. We each come from our own perspectives and yes, it is helpful to be near our children when young and especially if we have concern, which it seems this mother was (both near and concerned).

      Finding the balance between freedom and sensible limits is definitely part of the parenting journey and I am grateful we can have conversations here to talk openly about our perspectives and experiences.

  5. Susan

    Thank you for this article. A couple of months ago, I walked in on my 4 yo with her 6 yo male cousin. They were in the bathroom, she was naked, and after getting her evaluated by professionals later that week, it was determined he touched her. I learned this can be developmentally normal, although inappropriate. Both parents need to address this with the kids. I have. And my daughter is and will be OK.

    The problem is that my entire extended family has essentially disowned us for looking into this. I feel if more people were educated on sexuality and children — and felt more free to talk about it, such events might not destroy a whole family. Thanks for spreading the word and encouraging dialogue. In this case, the act itself was handle-able for us. The loss of our entire family is very painful for all, especially my daughter who doesn’t understand (and I just downplay it because I don’t want her to feel at fault or even connect the two events). Thanks again.

  6. Amy  

    Thank you, Susan, for having confidence in your daughter that she is and will be OK. That will definitely influence her as she grows. Much love to you and yours.

  7. Jamie

    Thank you so much ladies, although this post is a year old sharing your fears and wisdome and stories is still helping people :)I was refered to this page after i found my 2yr old girl breastfeeding her almost 5yr old male cousin. Kids do experiment and although EVERYONE reassures us its ‘normal’ we need to be vigilent, aware and trust and guide our children- thats our job. Thanks again ladies- especially Susam and Amy

  8. DistressedMom

    Yesterday I found out that my 7 year old son’s 6 year old friend was touching him in an inappropriate way. I have been suspicious for some time after catching the other little boy following my son into the restroom, one prior instance of touching that seemed like curiosity, and his perpetual attempts to go get my son to areas of the house where I can’t see or hear them . As a result I have had many talks with my son about the importance of keeping private parts private. He was very upset when I asked him what was going on and was fearful that his friend would be mad, they were “busted”. He was terribly embarrassed and did not want me to tell his father. After reassuring him that he would not be in trouble and that I love him dearly no matter what, he disclosed that his friend regularly touches him. My son seemed so relieved when I told him he didn’t have to have playdates with this boy anymore, it almost broke my heart. All the times he did not want to have a playdate with this boy and I allowed him to come over anyway are haunting me. I have looked up as much information on inappropriate touching between school aged children that the internet has to offer and this situation seems to teeter somewhere between curiosity and full-blown abuse. Essentially, the other boy has escalated from touching to putting his mouth on my son’s penis. According to my son this has happened on several occasions. I am confused as to whether I should get my son counseling, which I know would be traumatic in and of itself, or if we should work to educate him on personal safety and peer pressure on our own? I think reassurance that he was brave to tell me and reinforcement of personal safety and empowerment would be enough under the circumstances but how do I know?
    The family of the other boy are our neighbors and very close friends, which makes this more difficult. There is no question that the boys will not be playing together but whether or not to discuss this with the other boy’s mother is an issue, as is my daughter’s close friendship with the other boy’s sister. Further, how do I tell a friend that her son has gone beyond “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” without causing drama? The last thing I want is for there to be any more embarrassment for my son by discussing a private matter such as this and then the other children finding out. There is no telling how the parents would react but I’m sure it would become clear to both boys that they were aware of the situation, which would again be traumatic for my son.
    My ultimate goals are to protect my son physically and emotionally and for this to not become a shameful memory that haunts him forever. I don’t want to mitigate versus exacerabate this situation.

    • Dionna  

      How incredibly stressful for you. I would come up with a way to calmly talk to the other boy’s mother. She has to know, if only because there is a distinct possibility that someone has been doing this to HER son. In fact, that’s probably how I would approach her – with concern that her son has been exposed to inappropriate touching elsewhere. I would also stress that you are not angry with her child.
      I would probably also call and talk to a children’s therapist, if only to ask a professional’s opinion on whether this warrants a few sessions. I think it all depends on how your son is processing it, if he feels comfortable talking to you, etc.
      Much peace to you and your family. I hope that you can find some healing and closure for everyone involved.

      • Amy Phoenix  

        I definitely feel for you and it’s obvious you care deeply about your son healing from this experience. As a mom and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can relate to all sides of your experience. I wholeheartedly agree with Dionna’s comments.

        Ultimately, the child who is doing this is not currently safe and possibly there’s something going on in the family or elsewhere that needs attention. While I totally get why you don’t want to make things worse, if this situation is kept under wraps the boy may not get the help he needs – and if he’s being abused this may be a sign. Stopping the cycle of such abuse relies on adults to confront, report and find advocates/support in healing. It’s not easy and being really clear about what you’re looking for in therapy may help. A good therapist will be supportive, likely use play therapy and help you as the parent support your son at home. With trauma informed care more on the rise, you can really search around for someone to support you in this. Here’s an article that may help in the process… https://www.kidpower.org/library/article/choosing-the-right-therapist/

        It’s possible that with your reassurance your son will receive the support he needs, but it may also feel to him like he’s supposed to move on without a full opportunity to address the effects. Something inside may remain unresolved. Trust your mother’s intuition and you can always seek outside support down the line if you choose not to do so right now. Mostly, listen to him, trust him and keep the lines of communication open. There are so many feelings that come up when this happens; it may be a challenge for him to give voice to all of them right away.

        Again, I’m sorry you’re going through this. Healing is possible and probable, given your approach. I appreciate your efforts to keep your son safe and not further traumatize him. He’ll definitely benefit from those intentions. Take gentle care.

  9. Emily Bartnikowski  

    Distressed Mom,

    I second what Dionna said. I’m keeping your family in my heart. So much love to all of you.


  10. Amy Phoenix  

    I feel like I didn’t fully address your questions about how to address this with the mom and in sharing a private matter relating to your son. One word: directly. Easy to write, not so easy to do.

    As with Dionna’s suggestion, being straight forward about your concerns, what happened and knowing inside that the parents will react the way they react. That’s not in your control. Voicing your concerns, honestly and compassionately, gets to the heart of the issue. From there you can decide if further action is needed.

    With your son, let him know before you talk to the family that this is something you need to discuss to share your concern for the boy. Talk to him and let him know that parents love their kids, want to care for and protect them and that you’d want the same if he was struggling with something. Maybe relate it to a story he may identify with. Although it could be embarrassing, it is also an opportunity to stand up and break the cycle of secrecy around abuse. So many people hide in the cloak of shame around such issues, maybe this is an opportunity to shed that cloak and just stand up for the health and well being of all involved. Something to consider anyhow. Take gentle care.

  11. DistressedMom

    Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond, and for your kind and supportive words. This has been very difficult to process and I really needed a safe place to unpack my jumbled thoughts and feelings. Your advice is wonderful all the way around. I have discussed this situation more with my son and to my surprise and relief he asked me to speak with the other boy’s mother. I was going to regardless but now I feel less anxiety about that aspect of things. He seems to be processing things well, and his initial embarrassment is gone. We have read several books on the topic together and I explained that learning these boundaries is a part of growing up, as is learning not to hit, bite, yell or lie which seemed to make sense to him. I found a wonderful resource for professional help and will likely call for a consult just to be sure we are doing the right things. Thank you all again, you have provided much comfort in troubling times.

  12. Worried mom

    I have been reading this thread and have found a lot of the advice very helpful. I have a question, I have a 6 year old daughter. At the end of last year, while she was still in kindergarten, she was assaulted by a fried. The classmate, another girl, was over for a play date and she put a Barbie hand inside my daughters vagina. I found out about it when the girl told her mom about it but made it seem like my daughter was going along with it. My daughter told me that it really hurt and she didn’t want the girl to do that but she wAs afraid to tell me because the girl threatened to tell the class and embarrass her. There was a play date with another classmate over the summer and the two were playing baby and my daughter wanted to change her friends diaper so she tried to pull her pants down. I explained boundaries and privacy and all of that and hoped it was just innocent and not related to the one time incident from before. Months have gone by and the same thing, playing baby, came up again tonight after a play date with the same friend , the one she was playing babies with before. Do I need to be worried? I feel. And so does the other mom, that it wasn’t sexual. We feel that it was innocent. I do not want to be a mom who sweeps things under the rug. What does this mean? Should I be worried? She seems to understand why that wasn’t appropriate but what do you all think?

  13. Tammy

    Help! My son is 5, and don the bus the othere day he tried to kiss an 8 yr old and then attempted to put his hand on her crotch. My oldest son who is also 8, came home and told me. He explained that the girl had told him to tell me what had happened. I spoke with my 5 yr old, and asked him all the questions, such as “where did you see that?” Did anyone ask you to do that?” have you done it before?” did anyone do that to you?” and so on. He said he loves her and wants to feel her skin. But he did say that he also told her if she didn’t let him kiss her, he would chop her head off. I am at a total loss! My other 2 boys still act as if girls don’t exist… I am so upset with this behaviour, I don’t know how to address it. Any advice would be appreciated.

  14. Lue

    Hi. I am having a similar problem with my son. He’s 4. Two days ago a classmate ( boy) told him to pull down another classmate (girl) pants. And he did. It was addressed. We met with the parents and we spoke to him, explained to him he needs to make right choices. Then today at school he pretended to do it to another girl. But this time under no influence………

  15. Mom at a loss

    My sister and i share a home have for the last few months she lives up stairs with her children and i live downstairs with mine short of being homeless we have no way of changing this. About 1 1/2 ago her 2 girls were molested infront of her son. He was 2 then and though the girls got counseling cps told my sister they didnt believe her son had been affected being so young. But now he is 4 and my son is 2 and potty training. Originally my son was scared of the toliet and his cousin was very excited to help my son show him how to go on the potty and that it wasn’t scary. My sister and i are single mom’s and it seemed like the right course of action. But now we are worried twice now we found ours boys in a corner my son with his pants and pull up off and my sister’s son was pulling on his erect penis. Right now we have taken to seperating the boys unless we can keep a fixed eye on them because we are aware this could be from my nephews previous experience with abuse. But my nephew is slightly autistic and doesnt seem to understand fully why what he is doing is wrong. And my son is too young to understand most of what i say. My sister and i are at a loss any ideas?

  16. Paulina A.M

    Hello, moms. I´m facinated with all your comments and Dionna´s Help. It is a blessing to have an open spot to share and receive some advice on this difficult topic that you are making easier with you participation.
    And I believe that as easier as it gets, easier is going to be the way to teach and protect our children.

    I´m new and I´m starting and learning from you, I can see there are some really difficult situations that I support with all my heart wishing the best for your kids and you all.

    We often talk about our kids sexual progress, but its also important to look back to our sexual background just like Amy did to help from the bottom of our heart.

    What I want to shared is… that I was never sexually harassed, but I was a really curious and sexual developed kid. I was the one trying to find sexual experiences among my friends.
    After telling you this private fact about me, my point is…

    For those mom´s that have high sexually awaken kids just like me…
    like Dionna´s advice, is probably that this kid is been harassed in another place by someone else, but IS ALSO POSSIBLE IT ISN´T.
    So please don´t try to find a bad influence behind ALL cases. Be aware it might be someone else, I´m not trying to tell you to be naive or don´t make your really deep seraching about the possibilities, but kids as myself we have also a really awaken, natural and strong sexual drive.

    This kids need respect and understanding or we are going to condemn them to a whole life of guilt about a natural force of nature. This kids need education, boundaries, love and appreciation about this gift.

    I am not pretending to blame any one…but in my case I can feel there was a huge lack of education about this topic.
    As a child growing up in a very catholic family my mom talk to me about “How babies are made” with a story about to persons having a basic sexual act as a 1, 2, 3 step process, and there is where I became completely confuse, cause in my sexual natural process there was
    1.1, 1.2, 1.3….2.2,3.6,12.7 steps, terms, feelings and situations in my mind, body and soul.
    I want to open my heart, my mind and soul to be able to talk to my daughter about this part of her life as naturally as it can be.

    My 5 year old daughter is touching her private parts every now and then, mostly when is bed time. That is why I am here. I just want to be sure I start educating her with no tabues, guilt and understanding.

    Wishing you the best in this journey.
    Love, Pau.

  17. Jessica

    I do not even know where to start. I am having a situation similar to the initial post but very different. I come from a close tight knit family. In fact my oldest sister and I were pregnant with our boys at the same time. Born one day apart, now five years old, a reoccurring problem has risen. My youngest sister was sitting while my sister and I were working. She realized both boys were in the restroom together. When she opened the door my nephew claimed to be pooping and my son said they were pulling down pants and sitting on each other’s heads…And my son claimed he agreed because his cousin told him if they didn’t do it they would no longer be best friends. Not trying to make it a big deal we finally got them to confess that it was my nephews plan and explained about privacy and appropriateness. We kept them apart for about two weeks, and just this past Sunday at my moms holiday cookout there was another occurrence.

    My son told me two days later that his cousin told him to put his hand in his butt and touch his wiener. My son said no that it was nasty. His cousin then got mad and told him to touch his wiener or they wouldn’t be friends. He said mom I didn’t want to do it but I want him to be my best friend. I hate it that my nephew has found a way to manipulate my son in to doing things he doesn’t want to do.

    Now there is is wedge between my family and my sister believes I am labeling her son because I said they could no longer play together. My mom seems to believe it was an innocent exploration tactic, but I feel as though my son is being violated though he doesn’t fully understand what is happening. Are my beliefs justified or are my sister and mom right and I am overreacting. I am so upset and confused, I don’t know where to turn.

    Please help.
    Thank you and God bless.

  18. Angel

    My 5 yr old daughter was playing check up out side and my 5yr old cousin pulled my babies pants down and spread her butt cheeks. That’s the part I came out on…. What to do? How should I feel? I do know my cousin to be mannish. I feel like I let my baby down by not watching closely enough…. My husband is also very upset strongly expressing that the children cannot be left alone ever!????
    Where does God come in with this? (Wrestling question for a seasoned Christian) I pray for my children all the time that God would keep any evil that would come to steal kill or destroy them. I also pray against the spirit of “curiosity”. I’m sad at this happening….

  19. Bethanie

    I have a similar problem with my 4.5 year old boy. Him and my best friends daughter play together often and we have now caught them multiple times touching one another’s private parts. I feel like it’s more her instigating it but her mom makes me feel like it’s my son. We do keep a very close eye on them but to no avail they find a way to be sneaky. Short of not letting them near each other I dont know what to do. I have already contacted many child therapists to help me but I am very concerned that something more is going on that either I or her am unaware of. I am a stay at home mom and I don’t trust many people with my kids for this reason (fear of them being hurt) but now we have a new baby girl and my husbands afraid of him touching ourban daughter inappropriately. I’m just lost and would appreciate any advice or words of wisdom!

  20. Noel Arbogast

    I am so grateful for stumbling a crossed this thread today!
    Thank you for sharing your personal stories. The guidance and support offered is not only great advice but done in a loving and caring way. <3
    Just what this momma needed!!