After I found out my son was playing "doctor" with his cousin, I turned to a real doctor to find out if this game is OK.
Radical Mommy: Recently I found out that my five-year-old son was asking his cousin to touch his penis during their little game of doctor, and I wasn't sure what to do.
My sister and I had decided to talk to our kids separately about their game to remind them that their bodies were their own and that other people are not allowed to touch them.
Afterward, I was afraid that we might have done something wrong. Had I traumatized my son for being sexually curious? Should we have just allowed them to continue their little game? I was really upset, so I turned to momlogic's Dr. Michelle Golland, a licensed clinical psychologist, to find out her prescription for playing "doctor."
Radical Mommy: Did I do the right thing by stopping the game and talking to my son?
Dr. Golland: When we become aware that our children are getting excited sexually, we need to pay attention to it, we can't just ignore it, and you did the right thing by talking to him about it. Talking about it normalizes their feelings, but we have to be very direct in telling them that there is a certain time and place, and only certain people that can touch you -- quick honest answers are the best. In that situation, I would talk to them alone.
Radical Mommy: What should a parent say to their child in this circumstance?
Dr. Golland: I know it feels good to touch your penis -- and be sure to call it what it is: penis is penis and vagina is vagina -- but only Mommy, Daddy, and perhaps a regular babysitter, who might have to bathe and dry a child, are allowed to touch your penis. With my own kids, I always make sure to remind them, before they go anywhere I am not going to be, that no one should ever touch their penis or their vagina -- that includes your friends, your friends' siblings, parents, or anyone.
Radical Mommy: So is it normal for a child to want to touch themselves?
Dr. Golland: Absolutely. But if a child wants to touch themselves, then you need to explain that it's OK to do it, but that they have to do it in private -- in their room, alone, for example. This is especially true for the child who loves to watch TV while touching him/herself, or the child who always has a hand down his or her pants -- because it becomes a lot less interesting if you have to go to your room and be all by yourself to do it.
Radical Mommy: So in short, is playing "doctor" OK in any circumstance?
Dr. Golland: No. It can feel good to be touched. But we have to sort of help our kids understand that even though it feels good, it doesn't mean that you can do it with that person. And just because it feels good to do it with that person doesn't mean it's OK to do it with that person. Also, in situations like this, there is the possibility that things become lopsided -- and that is definitely something you don't want.
|Dr. Golland is a USC graduate and a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY#16974). She works with adults, teens and is an expert in the field of marriage and relationships. Dr. Golland has given her expert advice on CNN, HLN, MSNBC, ABC, and Fox news. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and wonderfully exhausting two children.|