When Sexual Behaviors Between Children Raise Questions…
1. Learn about sexual behavior in children
To be able to assure the sexual safety of children, adults need to know what behaviors are healthy and typical for kids at different ages, as well as to learn what kinds of behaviors are concerning. Safe sexual play usually has identifiable traits, just as questionable or harmful behaviors are marked by certain characteristics. Learning to tell the difference allows you to recognize a concerning situation before a child is harmed.
Learn more about age-appropriate behaviors in children and teens.
2. Determine if behaviors are harmful
If you are worried about a child’s sexual behavior, learning about the signs of problematic sexual behaviors will help you identify if an adult needs to step in. Although not all concerning sexual behaviors in children are indicators of a serious or ongoing sexual behavior problemsi, when troubling behaviors appear it can be helpful to seek guidance from a professional. A specialist can help determine if behaviors are problematic and help you plan next steps to assure safety for all children involved.
Learn more about concerning behavior in children and teens.
3. Learn why a child might act in sexually harmful ways
Children may engage in sexually harmful interactions without knowing or understanding that they are being inappropriate, or that they are hurting another child. To understand why a child is acting in certain ways, it is helpful to learn more about the child, their circumstances or factors that are affecting them. Learning why a particular child is acting in worrisome or harmful ways can often hold a key to stopping the behavior and preventing possible harm.
Read Do Children Sexually Abuse Other Children to learn more about why a child might act in sexually harmful ways.
4. Talk to a child or teen who initiates sexually harmful behaviors
Intervening early is key. Speak with a child who shows sexually concerning behavior so they can learn which behaviors are unacceptable or harmful to others. In order to feel confident that they can do better, a child needs to hear that you love them and will not abandon them. When concerning behaviors are identified openly without shaming a child, safety is more easily assured for all children involved.
Learn more about helping children or teens who show concerning sexual behavior. National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth.
5. Making a plan to prevent harm
The most effective sexual abuse prevention happens before a child is harmed. Making a prevention plan now allows you to promote healthy behaviors rather than waiting to punish violations. Kids are safer when adults get the facts about sexual abuse and behaviors that might suggest a problem early on. Kids shouldn’t be given the responsibility to recognize and challenge unsafe behaviors in their peers or older children. Create a family safety plani that is clear to everyone and easy to follow.
Learn more about making a plan to prevent harm.