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Preschoolers Seen Kissing

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

Q: I teach at a preschool and I noticed that one little boy will chase a particular girl around when we have an outside activity. I have seen him kiss her occasionally, also. The girl doesn't seem to mind. In fact, I think she may encourage it. It's probably nothing to be concerned about, but I don't know if I should intervene.

A: Check to see if there is a sexual harassment policy in place at your preschool. Many schools have such policies in place. You may recall a story reported two years ago of a first-grader's placement in a "high-management" classroom for one day because he had kissed a girl in his class on the cheek. Sexual harassment policies are needed in schools to protect kids, but they are often invoked for inappropriate reasons.

The occasional kissing behavior you describe between these two preschoolers falls within the realm of age-appropriate behavior. Most child development experts maintain that the majority of preschoolers will play some sex games during this developmental stage. These games, like the kissing that you described, are attempts to imitate and explore adult behavior and roles.

Unless you witness either of these children showing displeasure with these occasional kisses, don't intervene. If you are debating whether the little girl may feel harassed by this (supposing that it is always she who is being chased and kissed) behavior, you might speak with her alone at some point in the day (not after a kissing incident at outdoor play), asking her how she feels about this boy chasing her and kissing her. Without blaming her, ask a few open-ended questions. Observe how she and this little boy behave with each other throughout the day, not just during outdoor play. That will give you a more complete picture of their relationship and how the chasing and kissing fits into that overall relationship. Thanks for writing and for being sensitive to this issue.

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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.


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