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Sexual Curiousity: What is Normal for 5-y-old?!

post #1 of 154
Thread Starter 

So my son has been having some issues with sexual curiosity, and I am not sure exactly if this is normal or not.  I'd like to hear from other parents of kids 4-6 or so, particularly parents with 4-6 yo boys, about what their kids have done at this age.

 

Background info:

My son did have some abuse at age two that involved the genital area, but it seemed to be more physical abuse (meant to hurt him) than sexual, but I don't know for sure.  This happened at a daycare and was possibly going on for a few weeks, though there was one incident that was serious and was what led to me discovering this abuse, reporting it, and obviously removing him from this daycare!  I know he doesn't probably remember this, or it's at least stored away, but I know it's in his body and subconscious.  

 

Preschool:

The first incidents of looking and touching started at a preschool when he was about 3 with other kids his age.  The caregivers weren't apparently watching them closely enough, as the kids were going into the bathroom in groups of 3-4.  My son told me that one child was directing the play by asking other kids, both boys and girls, to pull down their pants.  Was concerned me about this was that my son said the other little boy was saying things about putting his mouth on other boys' penises and putting penises into bottoms, though I don't think any of these things were attempted.  This didn't seem like normal curiosity, and I was worried that maybe this other boy was being abused himself.  I talked to the director of the preschool immediately, and she made sure that the kids were no longer allowed to go to the bathroom in groups.  I can't remember exactly, but I think this happened once or twice, and that was the end of it.

 

Kindergarten:

A few months into kindergarten, my son came home and said another little boy had been looking at his penis in the bathroom and asking my son to look at his penis, and that this happened a few times.  It seems like it was looking and no touching.  I figured this was fairly normal, but I talked to the other boy's mom (who was horrified!) and my son's teacher.  She talked to both boys at school about keeping your body private, but the teacher said this is very normal also, and I agree.

 

A few weeks later my son told me that he pulled down the pants of one of the girls in his class and asked another girl to pull down her pants, and then he pulled his pants down.

 

Then my son told me he was in the bathroom with 5-6 kids, both boys and one girl, in the boys bathroom during recess, and that they were all pulling down their pants and looking at each other's penises.  He also said that they were asking the girl to pull down her pants and trying to talk her into it.  This made me a little more concerned because I didn't want the girl to feel like she was being coerced by 4-5 boys.  I was also obviously concerned that the kids weren't being supervised, so I actually went to the principal about this one.  My son's teacher took all of the kids mentioned and talked to them in a group, and she said all of the kids expressed shock and surprise about what my son had said, and said, "I DIDN'T DO THAT!"  My son then told the teacher he had lied, and he doesn't really lie ever, and she talked to me about this when I came to get my son.  This was sort of embarrassing as I made a big deal about it, but whatever.  However, the incident with the two girls and my son pulling down the one girl's pants DID happen.

 

With Friend's Daughter:

Finally, a few nights ago I went to an indoor play place with my friend and her 7-year-old daughter.  They are about two years apart as my son is five, so he's the younger one.  This is a woman I really like because she's a single mom, like me, and our kids like each other, and we both have kids with behavioral issues, so we can really relate to each other.  The kids had a great time playing, and we had a great time talking, but as we were leaving, my son said, "Mom, I am sorry, but I pulled down my pants and asked Alex to pull down her pants in the play structure."  I told him that that was not ok, but I said thank you for telling me, and then emphasized that this behavior was not something he should be doing and could upset other kids' parents.  He kept saying he was sorry. 

 

My friend called me late that night and left a voicemail saying her daughter said the same thing my son had told me, and said, "I don't know what we are going to do about this, because this is not ok with me."  She did say that my son asked her daughter to "touch his butt hole," but when I asked my son about this, he said he only asked her to touch his bottom on the side.  I texted back the next morning and said it wasn't ok with me either, but that I think this is normal curiosity for kids, and that we should talk to them about it.  I also called and left two voicemails saying I was happy to talk about the incident if she would like.

 

This has been a few days ago, and she has not responded to my voicemails or texts, and we usually talk and text a few times per day!  She also sent me a text that she wouldn't be coming to my birthday party this weekend, which she had been planning to do.  It looks like she is simply dumping me as a friend because of this, which I find a little shocking.  After all, my son is only five.  It's not like he's 12 and her daughter is 5 and he was molesting her.  And there was no touching going on, just looking!  While my son did ask her daughter to pull down her pants, she could have said no.  It seems like her daughter participated willingly in what happened.  I just don't quite get her reaction.

 

So, this is upsetting to me.  On the one hand, I think my friend's reaction is a little over the top.  My son is five; he's not a child molester.  I think that his attitude is more of "This is funny.  Ha ha ha.  Touch my butt!" and I don't think it's sexual at all.  I think to him it's simply curiosity and humor based.

 

I don't want him to feel shame, but I do want him to stop.  It seems like he is a little fixated, and like he's not controlling himself well, even though he knows he should not be doing this.  I have repeatedly emphasized to my son that I know he's curious, and that is normal, but that he must keep his body and other people's bodies private.

 

I am curious about whether other parents have had similar experiences with kids of this age repeatedly checking out other kids' bodies.  Is this normal?  Is it normal that he keeps doing it even when several people (me, teachers) have asked him to stop?  What do you think?

 

To be clear, we have sought therapy for my son's issues, and my son has been in therapy since he was about 2 1/2. My son's therapist seems to think this is somewhat normal and just says to tell him his body is private, but I am concerned that this is now affecting my relationship with friends and his relationships with our friends too.

 

 


Edited by Bisou - 12/3/10 at 10:30pm
post #2 of 154

Please don't take this the wrong way as I mean NO offense in any way what so ever but if this were my child I would be seeking the advice of a professional to get to the bottom of the issue. Perhaps they would be able to more effectivly ask questions and figure out what is causing behaviour like this. Some of the things your mentioning are beyond normal and I am pretty open with my kids about this subject at age appropriate levels so this really isn't a squeamish topic for me. My 5 year old daughter had a friend who was curious and would act out some things behind closed doors when they were left to thier own devices but not to this degree and after talking to her and her mother about it the problem did clear up.

 

I wish you and your son well. As for your friend she may just need some time to clear up her thoughts, you are dealing with a pretty touchy subject even amongst friends.

post #3 of 154
Thread Starter 

I have had my son in therapy for some time now, so we have sought advice/help about this, but his therapist doesn't seem to think it's a big deal, but it's obviously becoming a bigger deal for me.

 

I did do some reading in other online forums and saw parents posting, particularly about boys, that their kids were just obsessed with looking at and touching other kids' genitals.  According to what's "normal childhood sexual development," touching and looking at other kids' genitals is normal at this age.  I do think boys tend to do it more than girls since their genitals are more out there. 

 

I am concerned though.  What in particular strikes you as not normal?  The amount of times this has happened?  It wasn't him initiating this in several of the instances, but he has initiated this much more than I would like.

post #4 of 154

Gosh, it is so hard to say what is 'normal' and what is not. I have one child that in the summer, due to less clothes, is all about touching his self. I mean non stop.  I also know my boys (5 and 3) have a mild curiosity about each others penis's that mostly arises in the bath tub. Obviously some curiosity and exploration is normal. But I definitely get red flags when I read your post and feel that the constant attention this is receiving from your son is possibly on the being an issue side.  But since I don't have personal experience in my children acting/reacting the way your son is, it's hard for me to judge. So I mostly wanted to tell you about a book I know of. I have been meaning to get it for my children. I had it, but then gave it to a mama in need whose child was going through abuse issues and it helped clear some boundaries for her child again. It is an excellent book: http://www.amazon.com/Right-Touch-Read-Aloud-Prevent-Collection/dp/0935699104  In fact, I'm going to go reorder right now!

I also want to say to trust your own instinct. It is one thing to sort of wonder about something our kids do. But when it is raising alarm or concern on a consistent basis, then I really think you should listen to your own intuition. You don't normally feel this way about just any ol' thing your child does do you? So please listen to yourself, and if you feel the therapist is not listening to you, switch therapist. 

I hope you have resolve soon.

post #5 of 154
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the book suggestion.  I will definitely check that out!
 

I did try to do some reading online and read some different postings on other parenting websites, and it seemed like LOTS of parents with five-year-old boys (that age and gender in particular!) were having this problem.  I guess since there hasn't been really any touching it doesn't seem that extreme, but when it's upsetting other kids' parents, that makes it harder.  I do think my friend is overreacting about her daughter, as there was no force (she pulled her own pants down willingly) and no touching, and my son is two years younger.  I do think my son probably sees this as funny, because that would fit with his view of nakedness.   

 

I have even read some articles/postings where parents thought that letting their kids explore sexuality with other kids was great (as long as it was mutual, not forced, with same age children) and should be allowed, but I don't think I'd feel comfortable with that!  I don't think that teaches good boundaries, and you also never know if one child has been abused or would feel pressured or bad about it.  Not a good idea, IMO.  I also want my son to keep his body private, because if he's doing this sort of things with other kids, what would he think if an adult asked to see his penis or showed him their penis?  I worry that it would just seem normal to him, like "Oh, I do this at school with my friends.  This is ok!"  That worries me too.

 

Switching to another therapist for my son is nearly impossible because our insurance is HORRIBLE about mental health (I can only see my therapist every 1-2 months!) and there are few options for kids, and I can't afford the $150 per session that's the going rate here, so I am kinda stuck in that respect.

 

post #6 of 154
Thread Starter 

Ok, I just bought some books online!
 

Your Body Belongs to You by Spelman

 

The Right Touch by Kleven

 

I Said No! by King

 

It's Not the Stork by Harris.

 

The first three are about keeping your private areas private, and the last is just about bodies and sexuality, so I am thinking if he is curious he can look at a book rather than his friends' bodies.  Hopefully this will help!

post #7 of 154

If that were my son doing that, I'd be a complete wreck.  It would not be OK with me either.  I wouldn't want my daughter hanging out alone with your son.

 

HOWEVER, in reality, I think your son is normal and curious.

 

It probably is sexual when he wants to see his friend's butts.  It's not just "funny".  I say this because I was that kid when I was little too.  I was always more interested in inappropriate things.  I was always more sexually curious than other kids.  I was the girl trying to get the other kids to pull their pants down.  I wasn't a predator, or evil, or anything.  Just very curious.  I had a book about pilgrims when I was little, and it had a drawing of kids sitting naked in a big tub of water together.  I would look at that page over and over again.   When I was a young teen, I'd watch the scrambled sex channels for those tiny glimpses when it would unscramble for just a second.  (as far as I can tell, I'm fairly normal as an adult)

 

I've been working with little kids since 1982.  There's always a few kids who are like your son in every group.  It's usually boys, but occasionally it's a girl.  It's more than the typical "fart sound" behavior.   It's normal exploration.  But, it can get out of hand.  You really have to be honest with yourself, and aware that he is interested in this.

 

I don't know that I would make a big deal out of this, and I don't think I would get counseling just yet.  I think I'd find some books that you can read, and then keep the kids  supervised.  Don't make the kids feel like this is  dirty, or nasty.  It just leaves them with issues in 15 years.   Just supervise, and make sure the teachers aren't letting a huge group of kids goof off in the bathroom together.   Nothing good can come from a big group in the bathroom at the same time anyway.  That's just asking for trouble.

 

Your son is not wrong or weird in any way.  Just normal, but with a high curiosity right now.  His friends probably are too, so they feed off of each other.

 

post #8 of 154

I have a 5 1/2 yr old boy and he has never done that, so to me, it is a little beyond what should be happening and I'd be worried.  The fact that he has been repeatedly told would raise a flag for me.  My son is all about his own penis but shows no interest in others aside from looking at his brother's in the bath every now and again.

post #9 of 154

My 5 year old DS doesn't seem to have any particular interest in his own genitals or anyone else's.  As far as I know, he's never been involved in any incidents like the ones you mentioned.  None of what you described strikes me as abnormal, though.  (But I haven't been around a lot of 5 year olds and don't really know what's normal.)

post #10 of 154
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for posting.  I'd like to hear from other mamas who have (or have had) kids this age with this sort of curiosity, or not.  It's hard to be clear that I don't want him to be doing this without being so intense that he won't tell me about it anymore.  I have told him that it's normal to be curious, but that he should be keeping his body and others' bodies private.  So far that's not working as well as I would like.

post #11 of 154

I have three boys (ages 3, 5, and 7), and honestly, if my son were involved in all of these incidences, I would be very concerned.  I'm glad he is in therapy, b/c with what happened to him when he was 2, he has a higher risk of inappropriate behavior as he gets older.  Other than continuing to do what you are doing talking to him and reading the books you've ordered (and continuous counseling), I'm not sure what else I'd suggest.  It's great that he shares with you what goes on, though, a lot of kids wouldn't - and I would of course disapprove of what has gone on, but w/o any shame b/c otherwise he might keep it all to himself. 

 

I would give your friend some time and space; I'm also a mother of a little girl, and I might not want to hang out or put her in those situations, either.  Hopefully she comes around, eventually, and sees that your DS has (hopefully) stopped participating in activities that involve other people's private parts. 

post #12 of 154

I just replied to you in another thread, but then saw this in the new posts and it caught my eye.  Having worked professionally with kids who have experienced abuse and have also been perpetrators (I'm not calling your son one by any means... but that is what happens when curiousity continues and continues or starts pushing the boundaries on typical exploration.), I would be very very alarmed by this.  It is not uncommon for children who have been sexually abused to act out sexually.  This sounds above and beyond typical 5 year old curiousity.  It is ongoing and pushes the boundaries of curiousity pretty far, in my opinion.  Is there any way at all for you to work with a therapist who specializes in sexual abuse?   They would likely know a great deal about PTSD and even EMDR since the two frequently go hand in hand.  It isn't going to get easier as time goes by, so I'd try my hardest to see someone really *good*.  Some therapists are practically useless.  Certain places have sliding fee scales and payment plans.  If you think long term, even spending 150 a session for six months or a year is probably worth it if it means that your son can heal.  I know this is a ton for anyone, especially raising him yourself, so it might not be do-able.  But, if you look at it against the sleep you lose over this, productivity at work, cost of meds, etc, it could really end up being a wash cost wise, and certainly much more positive in terms of his behaviors.  Good luck mama... 

post #13 of 154
DS1 is 6 now and has still not developed modesty about his body (will happily streak through the house when he's getting ready for a shower) but doesn't pay attention to his sisters' bodies, and they are frequently unclothed and until recently all bathed together. The only time he asks anything about his sisters' genitalia is to make sure the 2 year old is wearing a diaper under her nightgown when she's playing on his bed, since she's not yet potty trained but has a habit of stripping off her diaper.
post #14 of 154



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bisou View Post

Thanks everyone for posting.  I'd like to hear from other mamas who have (or have had) kids this age with this sort of curiosity, or not.  It's hard to be clear that I don't want him to be doing this without being so intense that he won't tell me about it anymore.  I have told him that it's normal to be curious, but that he should be keeping his body and others' bodies private.  So far that's not working as well as I would like.



My child isn't like this, but I was, and that is what worries me.  I had "sex" at 7 yrs old b/c I was so curious.  Now this 'sex' involved a male friend sticking his penis in my vagina for a few seconds and that was it.  But still, that shouldn't be happening at that age.  I wasn't abused either, just watched too much adult tv thanks to an older sister. 

post #15 of 154

my ds does not do any of these sorts of things.

 

if i was the other mom, i'm sorry, i would not want my child hanging out with someone that put her in those situations. absolutely not. and sure, my dd could have said no but i wouldn't want the pressure there in the first place, that's just unfair to her and i'm sure your friend just wants to protect her dd from any sort of situation like that.

 

i think that what is troubling is that you seemed to explain it away as "normal curiosity for kids" when you know that your ds's history is anything but normal.even if this were the sort of things that other kids were doing (and it very well may be) because of your ds's history it is not normal. if i were your friend, i would be worried that you did not take it as seriously as i did.

 

i'm so so sorry mama. my heart breaks for you and your little guy.

post #16 of 154
"normal" or not doesn't seem to be as important as if it's problematic in your lives, which it sounds like it is. You mentioned your DS has behavioral difficulties - are you saying these are separate from the sexual play/curiosity? Maybe these behavioral difficulties are impacting the way he participates in these social situations and/or how he responds to the consequences/reactions...? Maybe he is more vulnerable to act out in these ways to compensate?

My heart goes out to you, mama. I don't think anyone wants to villanize your DS, but no one wants to see any more hardship for you, your ds or your social network!
Hugs!
post #17 of 154

I was a VERY sexual kid but as far as I know, I was never sexually abused (there was abuse in my life but I remember nothing towards me but who can say if I simply just don't remember?  One of my sexual curiosities was in fact sexual abuse and I honestly have no idea why.)  I knew quite a few other very sexually curious children as well.  We talked about sex a lot and when I was about 8 ( couple years older) I allowed a boy a year or two younger to touch his bare penis to my butt for a few seconds.  I also allowed my year younger cousin lay on top of me, both of us naked sometime around the same age.

 

I don't know if I was normal although I knew a handful of other kids similar to me, however even if I was normal, I am concerned first by the fact that everything started with physical painful abuse to the genitals.  I honestly don't know much about sexual abuse but my immediate reaction is abuse to the genitals meant to harm purposely rather than sexual abuse that might hurt physically along the way but not intentially (well as unintentially as any abuse can possibly be not harmful... ) could leave a more lasting effect.

 

My second concern is his continuation of doing things and being involved with things when he is in therapy for it and talks about it with you.  He is open enough to apologize after the fact but still continues to do it.  I know at that age, I didn't talk about it with adults at all and instinctively felt I needed to lie.  I was caught in some things (passing drawings of naked people with my cousin in church for instance) but otherwise didn't willingly share info although I never had the kind of focus your son does.  Granted children aren't always great at stopping themselves and not all children lie to the degree other children do but from my own experiences it seems unusual.  None of the other children I knew talked about it with adults as far as I knew either.  Parents were never calling the school or my mom about me at least.

 

I think it is great he is in therapy and I think it is great you are getting him books to help reinforce the privacy ideas as well as give him a sexual curiosity outlet however regardless of how normal he might be in a group of non abused children, it could very well NOT be normal for him specifically due to his history and I feel because of that, it might not be best to compare him to other children.  I think at the very least his therapist should take your concerns more seriously and not continue to only offer on solution of just telling him that bodies are private.

post #18 of 154
Thread Starter 

I guess my reasoning for wondering about this being normal is the following:

 

1) Other kids (boys) my son's age are doing this at school, and his kindergarten teacher says this happens every year.  She's been teaching for 30 years and says it's very normal at this age.

 

2) My son's therapist also thinks it's normal for this age and seemed completely unconcerned about it.

 

3) If you Google "childhood sexual development," what he is doing sounds normal, except that it says it's normal if they are doing it the same amount as other kids (which I am not sure about) and if there is no force or coercion involved.  I guess in the incident where he pulled down the other girl's pants, that wasn't giving her a chance to say yes or no, so that does concern me.

 

Many of you have multiple children and talked about your kids having mild curiosity, but bathing with siblings.  My son has no siblings and is only around me, so I wonder if that makes him more curious about other kids' bodies.  He didn't show any signs of this behavior until the other kid at his preschool was trying to get all the kids to take off their clothes in the bathroom, but since then he has definitely been more curious.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PlayaMama View Post

my ds does not do any of these sorts of things.

 

if i was the other mom, i'm sorry, i would not want my child hanging out with someone that put her in those situations. absolutely not. and sure, my dd could have said no but i wouldn't want the pressure there in the first place, that's just unfair to her and i'm sure your friend just wants to protect her dd from any sort of situation like that.

 

i think that what is troubling is that you seemed to explain it away as "normal curiosity for kids" when you know that your ds's history is anything but normal.even if this were the sort of things that other kids were doing (and it very well may be) because of your ds's history it is not normal. if i were your friend, i would be worried that you did not take it as seriously as i did.

 

i'm so so sorry mama. my heart breaks for you and your little guy.

post #19 of 154

If I were your friend, I would have cut off all contact between my daughter and your son, as well. This would not be okay with me in the least. I think your son's behavior exceeds normal curiosity due to the sexual abuse he suffered. I'm glad he's in therapy for this, but it sounds like he still is greatly affected by the abuse he suffered. It sounds almost obsessive on his part.

post #20 of 154

No, not really in the range of normal IME.  I think with his history also you should be pretty harsh about what normal is and is not.  The boundaries should be very clearly delineated without gray areas.  The issue is not shame of sexuality but respect of others.  These are the rules of society and he will be best off if he learns them well and learns them to be non-negotiable.  I'd personally be way less worried about him maturing to be timid about sexuality with some hangups than that he will progress to being an abuser of others.  I hope you read those books with your ds--not just let him read them himself.  And I would definitely talk about how respecting those boundaries is the only way to keep friends.  He just lost one.  Can he learn from that that what he is doing is wrong?  Can you be clear with him that it is wrong?

 

I think for the friendship and any other future relationship it is essential that you not claim that what your ds did is normal. 

 

Saying that makes it sound like you will not be active in changing anything.  That would be a huge problem for me if I were the friend.  I personally think that is why she dropped you.  While you said it wasn't okay, you also wrote it off by suggesting it was normal.  If you'd taken it seriously, then you might have suggested a strategy like no unsupervised play at all and told her about the abuse and all that you are doing to help him heal.  She would then be closer to you just knowing your sorrows.  She would know that you are facing something difficult and feel sympathy for you and your ds and that you are making an effort to help her protect her daughter by helping her be informed.

 

But still she may not be close enough/brave enough/open enough to face having a friend with these kind of problems and make the extra effort she would have to make to monitor the friendship for her daughter.

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