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When Kids Touch Each Other Sexually

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

Q: My four-year-old daughter told me last night that a friend of hers touched her private parts and put her finger inside of her and looked at her with a flashlight. She also told me this girl told her that's where babies come out. Having a baby seven months ago, I told my four-year-old that the baby comes out through the belly button. The girl who did this to her is almost nine. I feel very hostile towards this girl and servered my friendship with her mother over it this morning. She also told me her daughter has been beating people up and being very rebellious. The mother treats this child very badly, hits her a lot and yells, cusses at her. The child's father lives in California and the mother's boyfriend and the mother are always fighting and yelling in front of her. Is it normal for kids to experiment like this with each other? I'm very concerned that she may have hurt my daughter emotionally as well as maybe physically. This incident happened about a month ago ; I was told last night. She said this girl told her not to tell her mommy she did this no her. My daughter said she told her not to do that to her, but she did anyway. How should I handle this with my daughter so it doesn't scare her?

A: This is not "normal" childhood sexual exploration. Your daughter was sexually abused and exploited by this nine-year-old. I think a visit to your pediatrician would be in order to check on any internal damage. This was an emotionally difficult experience for your little girl. There may even be some shame connected with this abuse if she experienced some pleasurable sensations. Beyond talking to her about not allowing anyone to touch her private parts, you may wish to consult with a therapist who has treated kids in similar situations. I don't want you to frighten her more by making a big deal out of this but there are many possible repercussions from such an experience. Let's give her the best chance possible to work it through. Above all, your daughter should not be made to feel guilty, shamed, or that she could have prevented this. Praise her for telling this girl she didn't want her to do this to her. I'd also recommend telling your daughter the truth about how babies are born. Here are a few good books to help you provide her with an age appropriate sexual education, plus a book dealing with sexual assault:"Flight of the Stork", by Anne C. Bernstein"Bellybuttons Are Navels", by Mark Schoen"A Better Safe Than Sorry Book: A Family Guide For Sexual Assault Prevention", by Sol and Judith Gordon

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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.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of 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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