By Sarah Hamaker
Q: My five-year-old daughter was playing with her male cousin of similar age, and I saw her put her hands down his pants. The two were tickling each other. How should I handle this?
A: At this age, it’s highly unlikely that the play was sexual at all. Five-year-olds often want to play doctor and other similar games, as the differences in male and female bodies are beginning to be of interest. The best response is matter-of-fact to avoid over-reacting. Simply tell your daughter that her body is her own, and no one should touch her private area (or whatever you call her genitals). Also tell her to come to you if someone does touch that area. When her cousin comes over to play again, remind them both that hands stay out of pants and off their private places period. There’s no need to give a lengthy explanation—keep it short and to the point.
If you catch them with their hands in inappropriate places, level whatever consequences you normally would for disobedience. By making this a matter of following the rules and not about the specifics of the touching, you will keep the matter from becoming bigger than it needs to be.
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Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.sarahhamaker.com and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach.