toddler girl sitting in front of a window

Normal Vs. Abnormal Sexual Behavior for a 0-5 Year Old Child

During the early years of life, children become aware of and explore their bodies including their private parts. It is important to understand the difference between developmental exploration and abnormal interest or knowledge of private parts or sexual acts.

Normal
• Sexual language as it relates to body parts or bathroom talk
• Self-fondling or self-exploration in public or private
• Showing and looking at private body parts
• Removing clothing and wanting to be naked
• Asking questions about their body parts

Abnormal
• Discussion and/or knowledge of sexual acts
• Sexual contact with other children
• Masturbation and is unresponsive to limits or redirection
• Inserting objects into genital area
• Acting out sexual acts on stuffed animals or dolls
• Preoccupied with sexual play rather than other forms of play

If your child displays behaviors listed in the abnormal box or other concerning behaviors, it is important to contact your physician or a mental health professional.

How to Respond
If your child discloses to you that he has been involved in sexual abuse, it is important to not overact and to support your child. If your child discloses that he has been sexually abused, BELIEVE YOUR CHILD! It is important that your child feels that you have heard what he has said and that you are there to help him. Tell your child that he is brave for telling you. It is important to respond to sexualized behavior and other behavior changes in a sensitive manner. A negative reaction to sexualized behavior can make the child feel ashamed or embarrassed and perpetuate the symptoms. It is also important to create safety for your child, including eliminating time spent with the perpetrator, making a call to Child Protective Services, and obtaining a medical exam. It is important to seek professional help to assist you and your child with the emotional healing process after sexual abuse has occurred.

Prevention
-Teach your child the correct names of his body parts including his private parts.
-Teach your child body safety including “okay touches” and “not okay touches.”
-Teach your child that no one has the right to touch him in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable.
-Teach your child how to say “no” and encourage your child to say “no” if he does not want to be touched.
-Teach your child who he can tell if something has happened to him.
-Talk about the difference between good secrets and bad secrets.
-Trust your instincts, if you feel uncomfortable leaving your child with someone, listen to your gut reaction.

Have you had open-ended conversations with your child about speaking out and staying safe?

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