Family

I am a single mother, trying to raise my daughter with religious principles and values. It’s why I was shocked when I caught my four-year-old daughter playing with her genitals in the living room during a party at my house. I immediately chastised her in front of my guests and sent her to her room. I’m now feeling guilty for the way I reacted. Could I have done something else, and how can I fix this mess? – Motherhood Challenges

Dear Motherhood,

As a therapist, I’m wondering what is the real issue here – do you have an issue with your daughter “playing with her genitals,” or do you have a problem with the fact that others saw her doing this?

First of all, all children go through a time when they are curious about which parts of their body bring them pleasure. This is a natural developmental process, one that leads to increased self-worth and self-esteem and a behavior that is not, in my opinion, prohibited by any religion.

By chastising your daughter for an instinctual action, you are reinforcing the cultural taboo that “good girls don’t touch down there.” This simple, childhood curiosity gets labelled by adults as masturbation, an action erroneously considered by some as pathological.

It is no wonder why some little girls in similar situations grow up to be women fearing sex. They carry into adulthood the message they are not supposed to enjoy any type of sexual feelings.

Not only do these women form an aversion towards sex, their sexual inattentiveness toward their partner(s) also creates problems in their relationships. These women’s partners are left to wonder why these women are not sexually responsive to their love.

I don’t believe that there is anything objectionable about a child touching his or her genitals. What may be questionable, however, is where and in whose presence the child does this.

To “fix this mess,” have a heart-to-heart talk with your daughter. Tell her that she did nothing wrong, her body is her body, and she can touch any part of it she wants.

Also, tell your daughter there are some types of touching that are ‘private’ and should be done in private settings. Suggest to her the next time she has the urge to explore her genitals, she could go to her room.

The secret is to discuss this topic in a casual, matter-of-fact way, without guilt or shame. Understand that children and their actions are innocent and pure. By you not making a mountain out of a molehill, your daughter will accept your advice and shrug off the party incident without any feelings of persecution.

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