Sexual Curiosity

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Harvard Medical School

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Sexual Curiosity

Guiding Your Child Through The Early Years
30945
Behavior and Development
Sexual Curiosity
Sexual Curiosity
htmSexualCuriosity
Understand your child's sexual curiosity and how to deal with it.
346596
InteliHealth
2011-05-29
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2013-08-06
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School
Sexual Curiosity

Children are naturally curious about their bodies and discover their genitals in the same way that they discovered their fingers and toes. Toddlers often reach down into the genital region during diaper changes and when they are undressed for a bath. While touching their genitals, children often feel pleasure and may continue to touch themselves for pleasure or self-comfort (masturbate).

Occasional masturbation is very common and part of normal sexual development. Self-stimulation does not mean that a child has been sexually abused or that a child will become promiscuous in later life. Many toddlers masturbate when they are bored or tired. If your toddler touches his genitals at bedtime or naptimes when he is tired, consider simply ignoring the behavior. If he does it at other times out of boredom, try distracting him with other activities.

It's important to realize that children don't have a sense of modesty until about 3 or 4 years of age, so it's not embarrassing for them to touch themselves in public. However, since masturbation in public may be embarrassing for parents or other caregivers, it is appropriate to set limits for this behavior. If your child masturbates in public, gently remind her that touching herself is OK in private (for example, in her bedroom or the bathroom), but it should not be done in front of other people. This idea must be consistently shared with your child by all of her caretakers.

If your child's masturbating seems compulsive or is interfering with his regular activities, you should discuss this with your child's pediatrician. Otherwise, approach the situation casually — self-exploration is a normal part of development.

30969, 30971, 30973, 30979,
sexual development,sexual curiosity,masterbate,preschooler,toddler
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dmtChildGuide
Last updated May 29, 2011


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