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Old 08-10-2002, 10:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am new at this. But I need some advice. I apologize for the length of this, but there's a lot of background to my question.

I have a 3.5 yr old son, and for two years now we have lived next door to a family with four kids, ages 1.5(girl), 3.5(boy), 5.5(girl) and 8.5(girl). My son and the 5 yr old girl have become fast friends. That's been great and cute to watch..."We're going to get married when we grow up." etc. But this week it's changed.

I went over to their house, where my son had gone to play. Mom was in the kitchen with three kids but my son and the 5yo weren't in sight. Mom said she wasn't sure where they were...backyard? living room? I went in the bedroom and they were laying naked together on her bed, she pulling him onto her.

We co-sleep and they did too, but none of us has openly had sex in front of our children. We go in the other room when kids are sleeping, etc. We don't have TV's and don't allow our children to watch movies with that kind of content.

I don't want the kids to feel guilty about sex and their own sexuality, but I also don't want this going on. I told the two of them that this wasn't something little guys do together, and that our bodies are sacred and special and for ourselves. I said that if they wanted to play with themselves, it's a private thing, but that they shouldn't playing with each other's bodies, and no one should touch their bodies, unless their mom or dad is cleaning them or something like that. I said that I know they love each other and a more appropriate way to show this is by holding hands when they walk together or by giving each other a hug. But I said that they need to keep their clothes on and they cannot go into the back room on their own. I told them to get dressed and come outside. I didn't use the words good or bad. I don't want to make a judgement call on sexual behavior. I don't want either of them to feel guilty about their bodies or their feelings.

We live in the country and the kids regularly play in the sprinklers without any clothes on, especially since this has been a VERY HOT summer and the neighbor's kids regularly run around all day without clothes on. I don't want to change it all, but at the same time I don't like this going on. Today I came in the house, and my son was taking his clothes off and the girl had come over without my knowing. I asked my son what he was doing and he said "I'm changing." Then he went to the girl and said "Are we going to do what we were going to do now?" And she said "No" and ran out of the house. I asked my son what they were going to do, and he said "I can't tell you."

I feel at a loss. I want my son to tell me things, and I told him that there are things he NEEDS to tell me. I reiterated that this is not appropriate and that he can not take his clothes off unless he's changing or taking a bath, etc... When speaking with the neighbor's mom, she said that it's true we're not comfortable with it, but that it's also natural for children to explore their bodies and to want to try something different that feels good.

I agree that at some point we want to explore, but they are so young, 3 and 5. And I don't think it's appropriate for children to "explore" that way. It's hard to define at what age it would be appropriate, and I certainly didn't think I'd have to deal with this for quite a long while.

I am at the point where I don't feel comfortable with him going to their home unless I am with him to supervise if they won't, and they can't be here unless they are clothed. And my son and their daughter cannot be alone together. Does this sem fair? If I can't get the parent's help next door in this, I feel like we have to restrain the relationship or cut it off altogether...but we live in the country, where neighboring friends are invaluable...we're 15-20 minutes away from the nearest town...

Has anyone else had to deal with their kids "exploring" or does anyone have any ideas or suggestions?

Thanx,
Lauren
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Old 08-10-2002, 10:34 PM
 
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Wo. Difficult issue. I have a 5yo DD and she has a male friend who just turned 4 and I couldn't imagine this. DD knows better and we are a very open family (including open with nudity). While it all may just be childs play, your description sounds as if this girl knows or had experienced more than she should've (this could mean from an older relative -12 yo cousin for example-telling sexual stories to her, misunderstanding parents sex talks on where babies come from, to much worse) . I am going on how I understood yourstory but it sounded like the girl was up to no good. My DD explores but it's usually wrestling, pretend childbirth, etc.

For now, I'd say you should insist that they not play alone. Explain you are uncomfortable and the yneed full supervision untiul this "passes" Keep your eyes open, if it is innocent, it will pass. Just in case, keep them in sight for the time being. Have talks with your son, but no pressure. Ask what he likes to "play" with the girl? Go from there.

Good luck!
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Old 08-11-2002, 03:30 AM
 
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I wish I had more for you... but it seems that the girl has some experience with this. Could this be the case? At worst, could she have been molested? I don't mean to offend, sorry if I crossed the line but I do think that a 5yo and sexual behaivor with another is not as normal as for 10 yo. KWIM? Maybe just have them at your house for the next few weeks. Keep an eye on them. Listen to what they talk about. Obtain as much knowlege as you possibly can.
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Old 08-11-2002, 12:46 PM
 
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Wow, that's a tough situation. I know that when I was little, the next door neighbor boys got me in a room and tried to bully me into taking my clothes off. I was pretty terrified, but even after I managed to get out of the room, my instinct told me never to tell my mom. Interestingly, not long after that I tried to get a couple of my friends to take *their* clothes off. Not sure why, I guess I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Anyway, I was so scared to play with the little boys after that, but I felt like I couldn't let it show or my parents would get suspicious. If they knew what to look for, they would have noticed that I was suddenly reluctant to leave the house, and would hide or grow despondent when the boys came over to play. So look for signs like these in your son, and if they are there, then definitely intervene and put some distance between them without creating any fuss that would shame him. You might also want to talk the neighbor mom into having a conversation with her daughter, as it's possible that someone did this to her at some point, and she might be feeling as ashamed and confused as I was. Heck, if you are close as families, it might even be a good idea to get everyone together as one big group to get it out in the open. I think I would have liked any of those solutions as a kid.

This is just one perspective -- I'm certainly no expert! But I hope it helps, and good luck!
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Old 08-11-2002, 03:54 PM
 
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I can remember when I was a child about 3 or 4. I would hide in the closet with two boys and we would take turns showing our private parts. We also played things like monkey where I was the mom and they were the babies sucking my nipples. I think we were just kids being kids
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Old 08-11-2002, 04:00 PM
 
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I'd sit down with the mother of the girl first, and very calmly tell her my fears/thoughts, trying very, very hard not to let her get defensive or take it personally. Which is possible.

From there work it out.

But talking to the mother has to be done with awesome tact.

Good luck -

- Amy
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Old 08-11-2002, 05:32 PM
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This came up on another thread , and now I can't remember the name of it. I was talking about a book I'd read in which children mimic adult sexual play, and someone else popped up to say that in other cultures, that happens.

In the book, this play is treated as normal. In fact, the woman resposible for the kids said, "Why should I stop them, how else will they learn?"

It made me think, you know. Enough so that three years later, here I am, talking about it.

Maeve never played this way that I know of, but I know I did. And I know that at the time, I knew it was "wrong" and never told anyone. I know that it took me 26 years to be at peace with my sexuality. I know I didn't ever think about self pleasuring until after Maeve was born. It was just outside my box.

I don't know what I would do if I were you. I think I might have said, hey, ice cream in the kitchen, or something equally as huge a treat, and just redirected. Is naked tickling or wrestling really that far a stretch from running around outside under the sprinkler naked? They don't, after all, get exposed to it in different ways, so I have to assume this is innocent exploration. If you had to take clothes off to pick your nose you'd probably find them doing that, too.

Ok, well, that's not really the issue, and I'm sorry I went a bit off on a tangent there. It IS different for you and I guess that in that situation, if the other parent can't commit to every second eyes on supervision, then I would limit play times to the times you can be eyes on.

A simple, "We keep our clothes on when we play" should be sufficient for children that age, but then be consistent about it. Clothes on, not on sometimes and off sometimes. No more nekkid sprinkler.

Really, what was Mother Nature thinking? Why don't they come with directions?!
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Old 08-12-2002, 12:25 PM
 
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Lauren, it sounds like you have handled this beautifully.

I agree that while we want our kids to be comfortable with their own sexuality, sexual play with other children is not appropriate. I also wonder what this five-year-old may have been exposed to, as her behavior does not seem a bit unusual. Not allowing your son to play with her unsupervised seems like the right thing to do.

Teaching our kids that sex is for grownups (not in those words, but you get what I mean) is important, IMO. In a society where so many kids are victims of sexual abuse, it is important that they are given guidelines for their own boundaries. It certainly does not have to be done in a shaming way. Acknowledging the pleasureable feelings and explaining that these feelings are special and are meant to be shared between two grown people who love each other seems to be the best thing to do according to my own values on the subject, which I realize other people may not share.

Let me reiterate that it sounds to me like you are doing a great job!
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Old 08-12-2002, 02:18 PM
 
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My dd who just turned six, and her best friend who is 5 and also a boy, began about a year ago to explore each others bodies--they'd go into the bathroom or bedroom, shut the door, and then come out a bit later. Well, we caught on pretty darn fast, and gave the speech about how are bodies are our own, that these parts are very special because they lead into our bodies and it's important to respect them and treat them healthfully, etc.etc.etc. I had a heart to heart with my dd about how it's never OK if someone touches her in any way that is uncomfortable or gives her a wrong feeling. And we made a strict rule that there are no closed doors (unless someone is in the room by themselves). I tried to make this last rule independent of the "talk" because I did not want them to make the inference that thier behaviour was wrong. They were still aloud to be naked in the yard, take baths together, but we just stayed around casually.
I did question my daughter after the incident, thouroughly but casually, so I sould know exactly what kind of touch occured. What happened was pure exploration--she looked at his penis, he looked at her vagina.
The reason it is so important to know EXACTLY what happened is because it is well documented that kids who have been sexually abused, or exposed to sex, will most likely attempt to repeat those actions on peers. Kids who have not been exposed to sex WILL still be interested in thier bodies and those of thier friends, and kids do feel arousal type feelings, do touch themselves. But what we're all worried about is coersion--someone forcing another to do something they don't feel comfortable with. For a child who has been exposed to sexual acts, the desire to repeat those acts is very strong, so coersion is possible. What caught my eye in your post was that the five yr old was pulling your son on top of her; that's a fairly adult sexual idea.
Historically, there has been in tribal societies documentation of children acting out adult sexual practices just as they would cooking or hunting--but that is because in those cultures sex is not a hidden act, and monogamy is not expected, and sex is considered something you learn like anything else. It should be noted that sexual dysfunction (abuse, pedophilia, rape) is practically unheard of in these cultures.
Unfortunately, our culture does not have the same ideas about sex. Abuse does happen, and we have to be aware.
I would casually check with your son about exactly what happened--just act like it's some fun story you want to hear--and if it does seem like what happened was very "adult" then you should out of concern for this little girl, talk to her Mom about the possibility of abuse. Otherwise, just institute the no closed doors rule, and supervised nudity. It might be rash to completely stop any nudity--that's a pretty strong message to send about our bodies.
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Old 08-13-2002, 02:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I greatly appreciate your responses and encouragement. It's been very helpful.
I don't think that my son was being coerced into anything, but I also don't think the neighbor's daughter was innocently pulling him onto herself. They weren't tickling or wrestling, it was very clearly a sexual behavior.

It's something that I am not comfortable with, but at the same time I have been confused. I posted to help clear my mind and refocus. I haven't had to deal with anything where I didn't know if my reaction was because of my upbringing in a conservative society, or because of my instinct. I wanted to hear your responses to see whether they agreed with my strong reaction.

As has been pointed out, in other cultures that kind of play has been accepted and is ok. BUT, as has also been pointed out, that is not our culture and, while I don't want to raise my son entirely the way I was raised, I do think a sense of modesty and appropriateness is important for where we are.

Luckily, the mother and I are close enough, and she is open enough, to be able to sit down and talk. We had a closed-doors (no kids) talk. I certainly didn't blame her daughter; it was the two of them together. And I didn't ask or imply anything along the lines of abuse; if this keeps on, or if things change to where I think that may have been the case, I will do so. She agreed that we need to keep an eye out...not necessarily constantly, that would be almost impossible with all our kids, and see how things progress. She also said that she would casually talk with her daughter to test the waters there and let me know how it goes.

While I want to be consistent - clothes on or clothes off, not sometimes one and then the other - I think outlawmama's right that to completely stop any nudity is a pretty strong message to send about our bodies. My husband and I take our son places where we all swim naked, and my son and I sometimes go to the local pool where we change in the locker rooms and we've talked about girls locker rooms and boys locker rooms and nudity there. He knows that sometimes it isn't appropriate, to be naked. I think that going alone in another room is just another place where nudity is not appropriate right now.

Thank you all again for your input! It feels so good knowing that I can ask something and get such feedback...what a relief!


Lauren
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Old 08-13-2002, 04:20 PM
 
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Hi Lauren!
I think the sex-play issue has been well handled by those before me, I want to bring up another concern: Secrets. Everything else in this situation seems normal, but I have a big fear of OP children telling mine to keep secrets from me. I have to really check myself to be sure I am a safe place for my kids to come and discuss things with me ... my little sister told my kids a "secret" which wasn't a secret to them, but it had been handled that way with her ~ luckily DD came right to me and 'fessed up. I handled it honestly and calmly, then called my mother and let her have it!!! It is NEVER okay to tell kids to keep secrets, even "safe" ones ... I don't want someone to hurt them and you know the rest... I would just discuss this with your DS, let him know if he has questions about ANYTHING that you are the best and safest source of answers for him.

~diana google me: hahamommy. Unschooling Supermama to Hayden :Super Cool Girlfriend to Scotty . Former wife to Mitch & former mama to Hannahbear
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