How to Handle Masturbation in Children

Tips to Handle Masturbation in Kids

Children and masturbation may not be something that a parent may associate with. Why would children masturbate? Most parents would dismiss it as rubbish. But the fact is that it is true and common among children, too. At what age do kids start masturbating? There is no age when kids start to do that. It is more of an instinct as they learn about themselves and feel their body parts. We have come a long way from the days when it was considered taboo to even talk about an issue of this sort.

Masturbation is just an act of self-stimulation of the genitals for pleasure and comfort. Kids generally rub themselves with their hand or an object. It goes a little beyond kids trying to look at their privates when taking a bath. While masturbating, a child may seem flushed, dazed or preoccupied. It is generally common when a child is bored, sleepy, under stress or watching television. A child may masturbate many times a day or maybe once or twice a week.

Why Do Kids Masturbate?

Little kids masturbating is an absolutely normal behaviour in preschoolers and toddlers. They do indulge in occasional masturbation when they discover more about their bodies. Many do it because it soothes them and makes them feel good. Some will masturbate when they are unhappy, stressed or have something taken away from them. There are no medical reasons behind masturbation, but it is a simple act of pleasure to soothe and comfort oneself.

Masturbation In Young Children

Is masturbating bad for kids? No, it is not; it is common and perfectly normal for children to masturbate as they discover their bodies. The good news is that this kind of behaviour does not indicate anything abnormal or different about your child. These parts were meant to give pleasure, and parents can find ways to get kids to recognise the healthy boundaries of this act.

Kids Aged 3-4 Years

Young children between the age of 2-4 do not really have a sense of how to behave in public. Picking their nose, rubbing their thighs or scratching their itchy privates in public is normal for them. They just enjoy any kind of physical pleasure. One can help them understand how touching their privates in public or private unless absolutely necessary is something that must be avoided. It is good to tell them that if they need to touch their privates, they must do so in the toilet or in the bath. If kids seem to persist in indulging in rubbing their privates for pleasure, doctors suggest giving them a hug, rubbing their hair or offering them a substitute like a treat.

Kids Aged 5-8 Years

Is it normal for a 5-year-old to masturbate? School going kids are more intelligent and well-informed. They may indulge in self-soothing behaviour if they are lonely in school or being rejected by classmates. Kids of this age group will hide this from parents as they worry about the reaction from their parents. Medical professionals, however, believe that parents must speak to their children in the best possible manner. The discussion must not be a narrative or a sermon and certainly not a reprimand of any sorts. It is best to engage in a dialogue about maintaining boundaries and focus more on realising the importance of their bodies.

How Long Does It Last In Children?

Once a child has discovered about masturbation and the effect it has on him, he may rarely stop it completely. He may not engage it in so often if any associated issues like anxiety or stress are cleared. By the age of six, some children would have learnt the art of discretion and may masturbate in private. Masturbation eventually becomes a normal response to the surge in hormones and an increase in sexual drive.

Should You Respond Differently to Girls And Boys About Masturbation?

Normal perception of parents to masturbation by boys and girls are quite common. Most parents see it as normal and acceptable with boys, but with girls, it is considered to be a scary issue. It stems from a deep cultural bias about how girls are expected to behave in society and not succumb to their carnal pleasures. Psychologists and doctors believe that mothers and fathers must change their perspective to this bias as it is perfectly normal for kids – boys or girls to masturbate. It is just about explaining how delicate the issue is and when they need to engage in it. Ideally, parents must try to address the underlying issue if the child is indulging in it.

Does Masturbation Cause Any Problems in the Child’s Later Life?

Masturbation does not cause any harm or physical injury to the body. It is abnormal only if done in public places after the age of 5 or 6. Masturbating does not mean that your child is sexually active, promiscuous or has some psychological issue. It could cause a problem if adults overreact and make it seem as dirty, wicked and make kids feel guilty.

Ways to Talk and Manage Masturbation in Kids

As medical experts recommend, it is important to speak to kids about masturbation or even if they indulge in touching their private parts in public or private. There are ways to initiate the conversation and manage the behaviour. By steering the conversation in the right direction, it will help in developing a healthy attitude in the child in future.

1. Emphasise privacy.

Speak with empathy about your child’s need to masturbate. Encourage him and stress that what he is doing is normal but would be better if done in the bathroom or bedroom.

2. Focus on the child.

If your child does not respond positively to your advice, don’t stress. Focus on his need and keep reminding him that it is normal, and something that must be done in private.

3. Be proactive

Even if your kid is not masturbating, he may do at some point. It is good to discuss his private parts and how he needs to exercise caution and discretion when he touches them in public.

4. Don’t stress or worry.

Do not worry unless your child seems to be itching or rubbing his privates harshly. Seek the help of paediatrician in such an instance. If they are just doing it for fun or pleasure, gently take his mind off it by hugging him or doing an activity with him and speak about it later.

5. Elaborate on the conversation.

It is a great chance to tell kids about their bodies and how they should not let anyone else touch their privates. This will save them from being harassed or being vulnerable. Stress on who is allowed to see their body parts and see them naked. Tell them that only a doctor is allowed to see their private parts in front of Mum or Dad.

6. Build balanced self-esteem in the child.

Recognise the dignity of the act and manage it well. If you happen to see your child in the act, just let them continue with it. Once done, go ahead and have the conversation with them.

7. Manage it when it becomes abnormal.

If masturbation becomes frequent and intense, then the child may withdraw from all kinds of social interaction. If the habit is to comfort himself when bored, soothing when tired or releasing anxiety when stressed, then it must be considered normal and similar to any act of self-gratification. But if the child seems to be indulging in the act of self-pleasure to the extent of withdrawing himself from peers, then it could be abnormal. Girls often indulge in rubbing their genitals against an object which could result in damaging their genitals. If masturbating is done with clean hands, then it will not damage any tissues. If it gets rough, then kids must be taken to the doctor.

8. Avoid scaring or reprimanding.

Never frighten your child if you see them indulging in the act. Scaring them or shouting at them could have a negative impact, and they may be scared to speak to you about anything. Reprimanding may cause them to withdraw even more and make them indulge in the act in a furious way.

9. Give good counsel.

Give wise advice and manage the conversation according to your child’s age. Offer your child alternatives and dig deep into what is happening at school or kindergarten. Chart out advice to help him come out as a brave and confident individual.

10. Give alternate strategies to release tension.

In most cases, children indulge in masturbation to relieve themselves of stress or when they fall asleep. Give them alternative ways to relieve their anxiety by offering them a body massage or putting on some calming music. Children will not only get out of the habit but also become closer to you and reach out to you when they need any help.

11. Increase physical contact.

If you are extra cuddly or initiate physical contact through the day, the chances are that your child will wean themselves away from masturbation. Make sure to give your child attention of at least one hour every day.

12. Discuss this with your child’s teachers and preschool staff.

Make your child’s primary caregivers and staff at school aware of your child’s actions. Get them involved in the process of making them aware of their bodies so that they receive the same information at home and school.

When to Seek Help From Your Child’s Healthcare Provider

There may be instances, such as the ones given below, when you may need to seek professional help.

  • If your child continues to masturbate when people are around them.
  • If you suspect that your child is masturbating because he is being asked to by someone else.
  • Your child tries to masturbate others or indulges in touching the private parts of others.
  • If you see that your child is unhappy or depressed.
  • If you cannot accept masturbation by your child for religious reasons.
  • Any of the approaches that you use do not seem to prove useful.
  • If you have questions or concerns regarding anything else.

Masturbation is a natural act of pleasing oneself, and kids usually engage in it for only pleasure. As parents, it is important to understand this need and try to work around their needs. It is not something to worry about and must be dealt with care so that the child learns to grow out of it.

Also Read:

Sex Education for Kids
Talking to your Kid About Sex
Sex Education Books for Children

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