Table of contents
Masturbating has always been a taboo topic for both religious and cultural reasons. But while grown-ups can understand its inappropriateness and the concerns that come with masturbating, it isn’t a concept that is easy to grasp for kids. Recently, we’ve received this question from Rahet Bally mothers who were concerned with their children’s behavior: “My son Masturbates frequently. What should I do?”
We spoke to Sex Psychotherapist, Dana Sarhan to get her expert advice on this important topic:
Why do children masturbate?
Masturbation is a very natural process in the child’s development. It is a start to discovering body parts and the development of hormonal urges. Many parents worry that allowing it might accelerate any sexual activities in the future, but I’m here to tell parents that this is false. We, as adults, connect it to sex. Children don’t. Instead, masturbation occurs due to their curiosity as well as hormonal urges that are naturally changing in their bodies. Many children also resort to masturbation to release tension, even without understanding the science behind it.
Does masturbation affect children’s health or cause long-term difficulties with regard to sexual health?
Masturbation within a specific, safe and private environment is actually quite healthy and does not cause long-term difficulties in regards to sexual health. It’s not masturbation that is harmful, it’s actually how we deal with it as parents when we “catch them” in the act that could be damaging. However, as long as children masturbate in a private, secluded environment and do not inflict damage on to themselves, it does not have any long term effects.
What is the best way for parents to approach this issue when dealing with their kids?
- Don’t panic or freak out. If you catch them in the act, it is important to stay calm regardless of your religious or personal beliefs. This is imperative to avoid children linking sexual feelings to guilt or shame.
- Explain to your children in a simple manner that sexual urges are a normal feeling, but how we choose to react to them is what matters.
- Make sure that they understand that their private areas should not be seen in public and while it is normal to be curious about their body parts, it is not permitted to explore other people’s body parts. This will help them understand the difference between a ‘consensual touch’ and a ‘non-consensual touch’ and prevent anyone from harming them sexually.
- Explain to your child that it is only natural to sometimes want to discover, and if they do, they should do it alone and in private, out of safety from the public danger of strangers, and not out of shame.
- Give your child adequate information that will allow them to stay safe rather than ignore the topic entirely just because it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- In their teenage years, a very efficient and effective way in preventing this issue from happening on a regular basis is by keeping your teens busy with sports. Sports is not only health due to its consistency and ability to take up a lot of their time, but it is also a great way to release stress and tension in a positive manner.
- In younger children, you can also redirect their attention by keeping their hands busy with something else instead.
If you feel your child resorts to masturbation as a result of bottled-up stress or tension, you can help give them a back massage, play soothing music or sing them a lullaby to help release tension in other ways.
- If the problem occurs regularly and doesn’t die out, it is best to speak to their pediatrician and have them offer advice to your child as a health precaution during their next check-up.
When should a parent worry about their child’s sexual behavior?
While there are natural urges and behavior that are considered normal, there is also sexual behavior that can be worrying and needs psychological or medical assessment. Here are some insights to help you understand abnormal sexual behavior according to age:
Children 0-4 years of age
- Masturbating compulsively or causes self-injury
- Forcing other children to engage in sexual activity
- Touching private parts of other children or adults
Children 5-9 years of age
- Use toys or animals as a masturbating tool
- Become obsessed to the extent that they don’t leave their rooms to fulfill their urges
Children 10-13 years of age
- masturbating compulsively
- forcing others into sexual activity
- sending or publishing sexual images of themselves or another person