Sexuality has always been and still is a taboo sphere. Once our parents could not talk to us about it, and now we do not know how to start the topic with our children. After all, we, the parents, should take full responsibility for shaping the sexuality of our child – not school, friends or the Internet. Learn the natural stages of a child’s sexual development and find out what behaviors are the developmental norm and when to worry.
Every parent is involved in a child’s sexual development. He does it in two ways: actively – translating, answering questions, showing and telling – or passively, by feeling ashamed and embarrassed, doing nothing. Importantly, the child derives information not only from the knowledge provided directly by adults, but also from their behavior, which not all are aware of.
Natural stages of a child's sexual development
Most kids go through each of the stages of sexual development listed below, and this is perfectly normal.
Early childhood masturbation
Child masturbation is a normal stage of development. Sometimes it begins when we give up diapers, when the toddler gains free access to intimate places, which makes him interested in them.
While the goals of masturbation vary, the vast majority of children do it for pleasure. However, they do not associate this with sexual activities performed by adults.
The role of the parent is to pay special attention to the child’s hygiene and check if there is an infection, for example. You should not shout or introduce bans, as this way you can get the opposite effect to what you expect. However, if you believe masturbation is excessive, consult a child sexologist.
Building gender identity
Young children closely observe their parents and they model their behavior on them. The moment they begin to understand the importance of gender in a person’s life, they focus most of their attention on the same-sex parent. By analyzing his behavior, they create a picture of what it means to be a girl or a boy. They learn what behaviors are typical for a given sex and which ones are identified mainly with the opposite sex.
Observing the parents
By observing mom and dad, the child not only pays attention to their actions, but also to the structure of their bodies and the differences between them. If the parents do not have problems with the body and they happen to walk naked next to the child, the toddler will be more bold in asking about the differences in the structure of the body or the functions of individual organs. If the parents do not show up to the child without clothes, the child will try to peek at them in intimate situations due to insatiable curiosity.
In the second case, it is much more difficult to spot the moments when the toddler wants to expand his knowledge about the human body structure. However, if we manage to detect them, you should calmly talk about the anatomical structure and explain the differences between a girl and a boy. When the child obtains answers to his questions, the topic of the body will be relegated to the background.
Learning to use the toilet
The stage of learning to be independent in meeting physiological needs plays an important role in the child’s sexual development. It is only up to the parents’ approach whether they will be ashamed of their body and its reflexes, or whether certain activities will be normal for them – of course, with the awareness that a bit of intimacy will be useful during their performance.
Therefore, as a parent, weigh the words you say when your child has a “mishap” and does not make it to the toilet in time. Remember that understanding and peace of mind are key to success when you learn to use the potty.
What sexual behavior of a child should raise our awareness?
While many children’s sexual behaviors are perfectly normal, there are some that are the first signs of concern. They include, among others:
- excessive interest in the sexual sphere, which does not pass over time, but on the contrary – increases;
- imitating behaviors and gestures in play that resemble the behavior of an adult, not a child;
- engaging in or attempting to engage in sexual activity with another person;
- forcing other children to play sexually suggestive;
- presenting in play scenes showing sexual contact between an adult and a child.
When to seek the help of a specialist?
In the case of problems related to sexuality in adolescence, it is worth consulting a specialist. A child sexologist can help when a child’s sexual behavior:
- are repeated very often,
- absorb a large part of his attention,
- take up most of the time,
- hinder normal functioning.
A child sexologist will recognize the problem and implement a therapy, ensuring comfort and discretion.