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Sexual Curiosity At The Age of Six ? Isn't This A Little Soon?


I discovered last night by accident that my Six year old daughter had decided to use her own Digital Kid Zoom Camera to take not only Nude Photos front and back of her Ken Doll but she also took a few shots of herself nude from the waist down (you could not see her face).

I was shocked and am not quite sure what to make of this? She did not want me to look at the photos when I first picked up the camera but I looked anyway. She told me that all the photos were of her dolls but a Mom knows otherwise!

She couldn't really give me an explanation as to why she would do such a thing and assured me she had just taken them earlier that evening and no one else had seen them. She said she was just bored and looking for something to do. I am wondering if she was maybe trying to spot the differences between boys and girls or could there be more too it?

I didn't make a big deal out of it but warned her of the dangers of the wrong person seeing them, that boys and girls don't see each other naked until marriage, that she should never show pictures like that to anyone and what is private stays private, that's why they are called our private parts etc. We deleted the photos together.

But I am still a little troubled as to whether this is normal behavior (curiosity) for a six year old or what else could possibly be going on??? She is a very cute, sweet, smart, well behaved child. She does not run the streets and I monitor all her play dates very closely. She has however recently been attending several Vacation Bible Schools where I do not know the adults or the other students.

Please help me sleep better tonight than I did last night. Is this normal?

Comments for Sexual Curiosity At The Age of Six ? Isn't This A Little Soon?

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Sexual Feelings And Curiosity In Children - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Sexuality is something most parents find difficult to know how to deal with, whether it is the BIG reproduction talk, or knowing how to handle sexual curiosity or sexual play.

Firstly, don't worry, your daughter's curiosity is totally normal, and you are right not to make a big deal out of it. The last thing you want is for her to be ashamed of her body or her curiosity.

When parents are shocked or over react, kids get the message that something is wrong with them, or that they are dirty or bad. We have all sorts of taboos around body parts, and kids can very easily get negative messages about body functions, or parts of their bodies. Body image can be a huge issue for many teenagers, and if they have learned as a young child their body is dirty, or they are wrong or bad to have certain feelings then these kinds of beliefs can contribute to all sorts of issues such as anorexia.

When we have taboos, it makes it difficult to talk about things with our kids, but we are the ones they should be discussing and learning from in a safe and appropriate way. I was shocked at the mis-information my children's friends had as teenagers - and mostly because their parents were too embarrassed to talk openly about bodies or reproduction, let alone sexuality.

Yes very small children, even babies get sexually aroused. We are all sexual beings. Sexuality is not something that arrives at puberty, and sexual feelings are not something that we only feel after we are married. Some children explore a lot more than others, and it is just a normal part of development, of learning about our bodies, our feelings and our responses.

Of course part of our job as parents is to help children learn what is appropriate behavior in public vs private without them feeling bad about
themselves or their feelings. You did well explaining about keeping her body private, and sharing with her your family's values about marriage.

Part Two Follows . . .

Sexual Feelings And Curiosity In Children - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

In this day and age of technology and internet porn etc, as a parent you would be concerned about any photos floating around, and deleting them with her was a good idea! If you had any concerns that someone might have asked her for photos it would most likely have come out when you discussed it, unless she was frightened you would be angry with her. It is probably very unlikely, but I imagine those kinds of thoughts have been running round your head!

I would expect this is just normal curiosity, she was taking pictures of her doll naked and went a step further of taking pictures of herself. The thing that I would be a bit concerned about is that she thought she had done something wrong by doing that, so just be a bit careful that she is not getting messages that her sexual feelings or curiosity are bad.

Like any feeling - anger for example, it is just a matter of learning when and how it is appropriate to express these feelings. And in terms of trying to figure out the differences, she is unlikely to spot much difference between boys and girls with a Ken doll - I don't think he has the boy bits!

The more open you can be about bodies and feelings, including sexual ones, the easier it will be for her to come to healthy understandings. Waiting until puberty to have "the big talk" is actually the wrong time! That is when they are so not wanting to hear stuff like that from Mom or Dad!

Now that you have talked about bodies, it would be a good idea to introduce the whole notion of how babies are made, and some simple explanations about the differences between boys and girls. Getting a book can be really helpful in bringing up the subject. You don't have to go into a lot of detail, but when kids have the basic knowledge they will ask questions to clarify things when they want to know more, and it will be a natural part of their growing up, without having to have the BIG talk.

If she is curious about boys, then that is a golden opportunity to explain why boy's bits are different, and how babies are made, long before there is the complication of romantic interest, attraction or a teenager's embarrassment at Mom talking about private parts!

Part Three Follows . . .

Sexual Feelings And Curiosity In Children - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Kids at this age are not really able to explain why they would do something - and having to explain often makes them think something is wrong with them, or they have been naughty. Children are simply in the moment and are following their feelings and curiosity, trying things, testing things, figuring things out. Of course, there is also a bit of added excitement if they are doing something (sexual or otherwise) that may have a bit of the forbidden about it.

So not making a big deal is an important part of simply accepting and not turning this into something she has to keep secret or adding to the energy of "the forbidden mysteries of my body"!

We have to know our own body, love and care for it, long before we are married. So to have a healthy sexual relationship as an adult she needs to go through the normal explorations of her body.

It is actually great when our kids present us with little challenges like this, as it opens the door to discussing those trickier issues. So make the most of it and just be open and honest with her, and help her to love and respect her little body and how truly wonderful it is.

We have another question that raises similar issues and has comments from other parents also, and some recommended books.

Curious Girls

All the best,
Annie D :)

Normal For Kids to Explore Their Sexuality
by: Anonymous

My 7 year old daughter has been taking naked pictures of her lower half since she was about four. She has always been sexually curious and even masturbates regularly (by rubbing herself against the floor).

If you Google, "toddler masturbating" you'll see that it's very common. We have always treated it as a normal part of being human. Because of this, I am sometimes surprised at her interest in nude figures, etc. I would have thought that growing up in a relaxed home where nudity is common would have made nudity in general less interesting or titillating, but it hasn't.

I also monitor play dates and keep her very close (attachment parenting, homeschooling, etc), so I am not concerned that she is being abused by an adult or receiving misinformation from other children. Even though her level of interest surprises me sometimes, I feel grateful that she is able to grow up without shame about her body.

Re Comments About Sexual Curiosity
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for your comments, it is great to get other perspectives from parents, and this is a topic that is often not talked about.

You clearly have a very different range of family values than our Mom with the question, and every family has to work out what the boundaries are for themselves in their family.

Many little children masturbate as a way of self soothing, but that is not something that would be acceptable in public as an adult! So we want our kids to learn other ways of self soothing, or other ways of enjoying our bodies that are not just exploring sexual feelings.

As you pointed out, you know your child is safe and not in any abusive sexual situation and are comfortable with her innocently exploring her sexuality and are aware she masturbates. Of course many parents would not be at all comfortable with that idea, and it can be a challenge to set boundaries without causing a child to think they are bad or naughty, or that they should not be thinking or feeling or exploring their body's responses.

Even for very liberal families there still comes a point where you decide what is appropriate behavior in private - ie her bedroom, and what is acceptable in the lounge room. Or when there are visitors, or relatives over are you OK with her exhibiting sexual activities? It is not always cut and dried, we have to decide consciously what we are OK with and explain to our children lovingly or in ways that are not giving them the message they are being naughty or their body is anything other than beautiful, and amazing.

Great Comments, Thank You
Annie D :)

Doing Her Thing
by: Anonymous

So glad, Anonymous, to hear about your daughter's masturbating (on the floor)!

My daughter's been doing this (also rubbing on the floor) since she was about three; she's five now. She does it when she's tired of activities or people.

I see now, as you say, Annie, that it's a way of self-soothing. Not wanting her to feel shame, we've never discouraged it, but lately we've been letting her know it's a thing to do privately, or with only us in the house. It can get kind of embarrassing when she starts in in front of our parents or guests.

She's taken to calling it "doing her thing." We haven't been too worried about it, but I'd never heard of any other little kids doing it, so I'm glad to read Anonymous's comment.

Thank you!

Totally Normal
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for adding your comments to the discussion. It is really helpful for other parents to read what is normal, particularly for topics that are not so easy to discuss.

Masturbation is a natural activity, but because we keep sexuality very private it is not often talked about. So of course many of our kids usually get a message very early on that this kind of activity is not acceptable. And unfortunately along with messages they are bad or dirty.

And it isn't just self soothing! It is also very exciting and pleasurable! But kids very quickly learn in lots of other situations that there are different rules or boundaries depending on where we are. They might have to keep feet off furniture at Grandma's house, or not run through the house. The same thing goes with masturbation or even non sexual exploring of bodies. Kids soon learn when it is acceptable, and when not.

It is how we do this that is important, when it is just lovingly explained without shock, judgements or disapproval, then kids quickly learn what is appropriate. And of course every family has different boundaries about these kind of things.

Annie D :)

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