Exhibitionism in children
Nudity without sexual overtones
Exhibitionism is mostly associated with adults – exposing themselves in the least expected moment and place, usually with sexual overtones. Therefore, when a child feels the need to undress and view their own body, parents may feel worried.
However, it is a completely natural stage in the child’s development and it may be not caused by any other reason than ordinary children’s curiosity. So how should a parent behave in such situations? How should he or she talk to the child? Is it necessary to visit a child sexologist?
We are not born in clothes…
Children’s curiosity is something that can’t be tamed and shouldn’t be tamed. It is not only about exploring the world through new toys, tasks, entertainment and education, but also about raising awareness about yourself. The concept of sexuality for young children is something abstract. The child may not understand the changes that are taking place in his body. Therefore, the child may feel a natural need to learn about it. How to do it otherwise than nude? Nudity for a child is something natural and obvious, something that is not burdened with a lot of contexts and, above all, something that has no sexual and erotic basis.
Adults are the ones that put nudity in specific situations, expand its meaning, add subtexts, because THEY KNOW – they know what sex and intimacy are, they know what genitals are for, they are aware not only of pure physiology, but also of the erotic sphere. Children are completely deprived of this knowledge and their need for being naked results only from curiosity, from the need to get to know their own body, to notice the differences.
Exhibitionism in children occurs because of the fact that the children are simply not aware of what is appropriate and what is not. Therefore they have no problems with undressing in a public place – they do not feel shame, they do not know the conventions or social principles. It is very important how parents will approach this topic and how they will help the child understand the mechanism of sexuality and nudity. Rarely At this stage usually there is no need for help form a child sexologist. It is worth turning to him only when the child is unable to process information received from parents.
Children’s exhibitionism as a call for help
Of course, the child’s need to undress in the least expected moments can also have other causes. Sometimes, it is the final attempt to attract attention, a kind of cry for help, notice and reaction. This may happen when the relationship with parents is not at an appropriate level, when contacts are neglected or the child’s problems are underestimated by the parents. Then, the most useful can be a visit to a child psychologist-sexologist who will help solve problems of difficult communication between parents and the child.
How to behave when a child undresses in a public place?
It is not easy for any parent. The feeling of shame associated with the improper behavior of their own child, assessing glances, and sometimes also harming comments of other parents can hardly be considered comfortable. However, the parent should not shout, scold or show his own embarrassment, because in that way he would arouse fear and shame in the child. It is much better to tell the child that nudity in public places is something wrong.
The best thing you can do in a situation where a child in an unconventional way (for adults!) shows his curiosity and willingness to pay attention to him is … to pay attention to him. It is important to crouch down – in this way you will have an eye contact with him and you will not dominate him with your height, which can cause fear and a sense of being smaller, weaker. Give your child patience and empathy, show understanding of his needs, his curiosity and expression. Help your child understand, why some behaviors are not appropriate. Do it not because the others are looking at you, but do it for your child’s good.
There is nothing to be ashamed of – it is worth naming body parts in the way they are called and explaining to the child what they are used for, without going into details that the child should not yet know. However, if an adult does not feel up to it or thinks that he has used all the means to stop the child from exhibitionism, it is worth considering therapy with a sexologist who will help both the child and parents in difficult conversations.