Parents: Listen Up!
I attended a session today. I don't know whether to describe it as great, interesting or scary. The topic, "Youth with Sexual Behavior Problems". I'll summarize a few things I learned along with resources I gathered. If you think your child has an abnormal sexual behavior, there are great resources available that can help (see below).
As a parent of, what I think are "normal" children, who have not suffered any major trauma such as loss of a parent, abandonment or sexual misconduct, I found some of this information very disturbing. In fact, it really wanted me to do even more to support positive youth development.
Now let's move into what's normal versus when to be concerned. Much of this data comes from the book Understanding Childrens' Sexual Behaviors by Toni Cavanagh Johnson, PH. D., (2013)
Sexting is now "within the normal range of sexual behavior". Really? Yes, according to new information. What makes it "illegal" is when it is shared in a non-concentual way.
The biggest learning for me was about pornography. Its everywhere and as many child restrictions you put on your devices at home, your child WILL SEE PORN much earlier than you ever imagined. Devices are everywhere...friends houses, on the bus, at school...EVERYWHERE. The ads that pop up are not selective to age. An innocent search may result in obscene content and actions that even embarrass you! Did you know that majority of pornographic movies/clips show violence? If you haven't seen it yet, check out Porn Kills Love.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS. Don't wait for them to hear about this on the playground, on the bus or worse, when sleeping over at a friends house. TALK NOW. My neighbor's child was 10 when he first saw pornography. 10! I think I was 25 before I even knew what it all meant! The most important thing you can do for your child is find a safe site or video, show them and TALK. Talk about your family values. Talk about how porn is NOT REAL and it is NOT OK. Role play. Ask them what they would do if they saw something they know was NOT OK. Make them tell you what they would say. REPEAT IT. For a boy, have the discussion of NO means NO. Even if it started as YES and now its NO. NO means NO. I started this with my 3 year old in simple play. "I don't want to wrestle...no means no". And for you daughter, tell her, in the heat of the moment, if you change your mind, that's OK, speak up, be heard, NO means NO.
Here is a great video on consent: "Consent, its as simple as tea"
I learned that if a child sees something they don't understand they fall into a repetition pattern. They seek to understand. They look for more detail, they try to figure it out. As you can imagine this is a vicious cycle that in some cases cannot be stopped and leads to unhealthy actions. Often children with Sexual Behavior Problems are just acting out...they are re-enacting what they have seen. And just know, this is more of a behavior problem than anything else.
Let's teach LOVE and SELF-RESPECT. When they see something among their peers that seems inappropriate, let's give them to courage to say, "Dude, that's not cool."
If you are concerned with your child's behavior, start by contacting the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault
You can find the book Understanding Childrens' Sexual Behaviors by Toni Cavanagh Johnson, PH. D., (2013) here on Amazon.