Parents and teachers in kindergartens often seek answers to questions about masturbation in young children:
Is it normal? If so, at what age and how often? Is it not a symptom of any psychological problems in the child? Will there be any negative consequences for the health and psyche? What to do – forbid it, ignore it or worry about it? What to do – to take any measures or simply accept it as something transient and normal?
Psychologists, sexologists and pediatricians, are adamant that there is no reason for concern. Masturbation in young children is quite normal behavior. Children masturbation is not a deviation from the norm or symptom of a disease. Yes, “no problem”, but it is better to monitor the frequency and intensity of masturbation of a small child. Another problem can occur when there is inadequate and proper response from parents.
How often masturbation can be considered normal?
There is no way to tell if there is any norm and what it is. The right question should be: What should cause us to raise our attention?
If your child:
- has established a habit of masturbating, eg while watching his favorite show or can not sleep without masturbating;
- Has a habit of touching his pants when eating, playing only or read comic;
- The child masturbates in front of others without any inconvenience;
- Reacts aggressively in attempts by adults to interrupt him;
- Teaches how to masturbate his friends or siblings;
- If masturbation itself is accompanied by changes in the child’s behavior – aggression, hysteria, taciturnity, leakage of urine or faecal then we can talk about a problem and seek professional help. In this case masturbation can be a symptom of a problem in neuro-psychological health of the child and such behavior can become an obstacle in the process of socialization. It is important to understand that not the act of masturbation can provokes nervous tension and mental reaction, but a disease or condition of unmet emotional needs. Masturbation can only be a consequence.
Where to look for reasons for the behavior of the child?
The reasons usually are different, but they are related to the emotional state of the child. Here are some of them:
- Increased nervousness, accompanied by a breach in appetite and sleep;
- Divorce of parents, which causes a separation from the mother or father;
- Competitive relationship with a sibling or a parent, feeling a lack of love;
- Physical or emotional overload;
- In the absence of activities and interests;
- Conflicts or violence in the family;
- Physical punishments and beatings.
In the presence of stress, anxiety, fears and loneliness, masturbation becomes an excellent way to obtain the missing pleasure. Masturbation becomes a means of releasing accumulated great mental stress. When children receive the needed care, attention and missing psychic discomfort, they are not looking for an outlet or a substitute such as – masturbation. This is the main mechanism of the phenomenon and when this habit is manifested in very early age /even before the hormonal changes/ and acquire a particularly intrusive form, it is important to consult with a specialist who can help to detect and remove the reasons for it becoming abnormality.
It is possible that masturbation of the child is a result of physiological causes: parasites, allergies, diabetes, poor hygiene, uncomfortable underwear and others. These are less common causes, but you still need to know them and have them in mind..
Very important is the reaction of the parent! Question that arises in the head of the parent as soon as notice is – why the child does so? Rarely parent react in the most correct way.
How we should react:
- Talk calmly with your child, explain to him that genitals are very personal and it is not good to show them to everyone. They should be shown only to the doctor and only he can touch them. Explain that frequent touching of the genitals with your hands can contaminate them and cause and infection. Not accidentally, these body parts must wear underwear. Give an example that if you continuously pull and rotate your ear – will become red and will hurt a lot. This can happen with genital too and this is why they don’t have to be played with.
- The child must understand that sexual organs are his personal and very important. That they must be sacrosanct for others around him and this way you will be able to avoid further aggregation of the problem at school or kindergarten, and possibly sexual abuse by adult.
- Maternal love is very important for children who masturbate – hug your child, kiss it before going to sleep. Give him more love and attention.
- Physical activity also helps – if a child is permanently not be allowed to bounce and play, his unspent energy can go in another direction. One such direction is masturbation.
- The games and the ability of the child to express their emotions, new hobbies and interesting activities – all this can also redirect and distract the child from the desire for masturbation.
What error do we make?
- We should never make the child ashame for what he is doing, especially in front of other family members: “What nonsense are you doing! Now I will tell everyone what you do”. You should not impose on your child guilt or feeling that his genitals are something dirty, bad, indecent, ‘How you can touch there! Immediately go to wash your hands! “
- We should never punish a child for masturbation – it’s so natural.
- You should never give your child drugs to “cure” masturbation – only specialized assistance aimed at lowering the nerve excitability can be effective. You should contact a specialist: a pediatrician, psychologist, sexologist or neurologist.
- If you remind the child too much about the problem or the opposite – completely avoiding the conversation on this subject is also a mistake. We should not transfer our own complexes on the child or to turn masturbation into “something forbidden” – doing this will only reinforce the child’s interest and it will start to have secrets.
Finally, at what age what we can expect :
Up to 2 years – Most children play with their genitals, as often do with other parts of the body. They actually study them. After this age the game with the genitals can now be longer and receive pleasure.
3-4 years old – child already understands that these actions worry his parents, but seeks pleasure even ignoring the ban.
6 years old – 6 year old already understands the concepts of “good” and “bad” and suspected that masturbation is something obscene. In this age it is generally trying to be obedient, to earn praise and approval from their parents, so masturbation is now very rare or absent at all.
9-10 years old – In this age they are now directly related to the development of sexuality. It is imperative for parents to talk with their son or daughter on most issues related to sexuality and anatomy of sexual organs. The child is now big enough to understand that too frequent masturbation could cause problems in the intimate life of an adult.