There’s nothing quite like children playing with themselves to throw parents off their game. First of all, little kids don’t care where they are or who they’re with. It’s all fair game. The apple hasn’t been plucked from the tree yet. It feels good, so they do it. Makes sense.

It’s up to us to help them understand the idea of privacy and private parts without shaming them. Ever heard a parent tell their son to stop playing with it or it’ll fall off? I have. That’s pretty messed up. If they are naive enough to fiddle on the front lines, they are naive enough to believe that it is possible that their penises will fall off if they keep playing with them.

I went through it with my son when he was younger and I am going through it with my daughter now. The truth is, it never made me feel uncomfortable and I am lucky that I was conscious and aware of not wanting to shame my kids into thinking they are doing something wrong.

These are strange times to be raising kids, especially to be raising a little girl. The first president my daughter will remember is Donald J. Trump, who grabs women by their pussies. Then there are all the sexual predators. But there are also movements like #MeToo, the silence breakers.

It’s so important as our kids start to discover their bodies and sexuality to welcome it all. If it makes you uncomfortable, it’s your job as their parent to deal with your own issues and discomfort. If you don’t, your issues will become their shame.

Here are some tips in dealing with your kids discovering and exploring their bodies:

  1. Normalize it by speaking to them in a calm tone and letting them know you understand it feels good and why they are doing what they are doing.
  2. Don’t tell them something bad will happen if they touch themselves and explore their bodies.
  3. When they do touch themselves in public, gently remind them that it’s something they can do when they get home.
  4. If you’re uncomfortable, talk about it with your partner or therapist.
  5. Don’t punish or threaten them for doing something natural and normal.

It’s worth taking some time to think about how sexuality was dealt with when you were a kid. Can you remember things your parents said to you? Can you remember how it felt? This is yet another opportunity as a parent to deepen your connection with your kids by reconnecting with your own childhood.

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David B. Younger, Ph.D. is the creator of Love After Kids, for couples that have grown apart since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couples therapist with a web-based private practice and lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, 13-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter and 5-year-old toy poodle.

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