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Sexually Inquisitive Child

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My seven-year-old son is an extremely sexually inquisitive child. He's even been caught playing show-and-tell with other boys. This started at about five and a half with boys and girls but mostly boys (I think because he's almost always with boys). Anyway, could this mean he's gay? Or just very curious? We've explained over and over about this. Also, would it be wise to permit him to watch the birth of his sibling?

A: Your son's sex games that began when he was five years old are very popular among preschoolers. As kids become older, their innocent, curious sexual explorations with self and others become less observable due to their being socialized about its inappropriateness. I would not be worried about the occasional show-and-tell with boys. There is no reason to consider this to be sexually aberrant behavior or an indication that he is homosexual. He should not be shamed or condemned.

However, if you think that the frequency, degree, and intensity of his sexual exploration is a concern, then you might consider this behavior an unconscious cry for help. The occasional mooning of friends or show-and-tell with the boys on a sleepover is very different from his initiating sexual games with his male friends virtually every time they get together.

In general, I would not recommend that a seven-year-old be present for the birth of a sibling. Even if the birth was carried out with no complications (a sudden C-section, long and painful labor, etc.), I don't feel kids at this age are emotionally equipped to witness and process this very dramatic event. This is not a child watching little baby animals being born on the Discovery Channel as their parents sit with them in the living room explaining what's going on and assuaging their fears and anxieties. This is his mom in a hospital room (or at home) involved in the most emotionally laden experience possible. You know your son better than I could ever know him, but I would not favor his participation because of his sexual curiosity.

Book suggestions for him are:

Happy Birth Day, by Robie Harris

Flight of the Stork: What Children Think (and When) About Sex and Family Building, by Anne C. Bernstein

When Sex is the Subject: Attitudes and Answers for Young Children, by Pamela Wilson

Have a great birthing experience and congratulations in advance on your next child.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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