Learning About Self-Touching During Childhood

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What does self-touching mean?

All children explore their own bodies. Even babies and very young children learn that it feels good to touch their genitals. It's a physical sensation that helps them feel good about their bodies.

When your child touches or rubs their genitals, it's called self-touching. It's a healthy part of human sexuality. And it's a normal part of childhood.

How can you respond?

Ideally, your goal is to help your child grow up with a positive attitude about their body, without shame or guilt. If you see your child self-touching, treat it as a chance to teach your child. You might want to teach:

  • That it is okay when your child is alone. Make it clear that self-touching is something to do in private, not in public.
  • What areas of the body are private and are not to be touched by others.

When children explore with each other

Children can also become curious about other children's bodies. Games like "doctor" are common ways for children to explore and compare their bodies.

If you see your young child playing with an another child and they touch each other's genitals, respond calmly. This is curiosity. It is not the same as teen or adult sex. Teach the children that it is not okay to touch each other's private areas.

When to talk to your doctor

If your child self-touches all the time or in public after being told not to, talk with your child's doctor. It might be a sign of a problem.

How can you talk about sexual feelings with your child?

As children grow, they all have sexual feelings of some kind. These feelings are a normal part of growth and development.

When your child is curious about the human body and sexual feelings, show that you are willing to listen. Give answers that are honest and simple. This will help your child have a healthy attitude about their body.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.