The first thing to remember about children is that they come completely unprogrammed; they are blank slates when they are born. To them, a body is just a body. Their elbow is as new and exciting as their genitals (“private parts” or “down there”) at first. (As a side note, the word genitals may have an uncomfortable feeling or connotation for you as an adult, but I suggest getting comfortable with the technical terms. Having your child be able to use the anatomically appropriate words for their parts may help them protect themselves from sexual abuse in the future.) When they are touching their genitals, they are merely exploring a sensation, the same way they might scratch an itch or stick their finger in their belly button. The messages and rules about masturbation are something that they learn along the way. child touches private parts
Every home has a different value system regarding masturbation, self-stimulation, or “touching private parts.” It is up to you and your family to determine the rules that you want to put in place around them. One way to approach this is to suggest that the child only touch themselves in private spaces, such as their own bedroom or bathroom while alone. If they are too young to even understand or comply with that, it is OK to allow them to explore their body. It is up to you as the adult to remember that their body is completely new to them and they just want to understand how it works. If you are in a public space and feel uncomfortable with this behavior, gently move their hand away or offer them something else to hold on to or play with. The best thing to do is to not make them feel ashamed or bad for doing something that they don’t understand. As a parent or caregiver, you need to teach them. child touches private parts
When is it a problem?
If they are old enough to understand and you think they are doing it too much, or compulsive, then asking a friend or a medical professional may be helpful for you. How much is too much? If it is preventing them from completing their daily tasks and routines or if you find they are preoccupied enough that it distracts them from their daily living, then you might feel like outside help is useful. However, it is still a learning curve that starts with you. You should be having compassionate and honest conversations with them about it before you consider it a “problem.” How can you equip yourself to have those conversations? child touches private parts