What Is The Appropriate Age For Masturbation?

by Cay Crow, M.A., LPC, AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist

Young girl wearing a sweater in a room photo taken from behind

Dear Cay: My 10-year old granddaughter has discovered that my neck massager feels good against certain body parts. I don't have a problem with her stimulating herself but she does not close the door of her room to do so in private. I have walked in on her numerous times, so has her mother and her grandfather. I don't want to give her the idea that masturbation is wrong but I do want her to understand that it is a private activity. None of the adults, including me, can work up the courage to talk with her. Would you consider talking with her about his issue?

Signed, Nervous Nana

How To Act When Parents Walk In While Their Children Are Masturbating

Dear Nervous Nana:

I will be happy to work with you or the entire family on how to talk with your granddaughter about this and other sexual issues. The research shows that children prefer their parents as primary sex educators. Besides, this current issue is but one of many that will surface over the course of your granddaughter's life. I might not be around for every question or concern so it is vital that you and your family prepare yourselves to educate your granddaughter.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Masturbation

The next time that anyone walks in on your granddaughter stimulating herself, simply tell her in a neutral tone of voice, "That is a private activity and you need to close the door if you are going to touch yourself." Tell her that you will be happy to talk with her about it at another time. Then leave the room and close the door behind you. The next time you find the door closed, knock and ask if you can come in.

You have taken some important steps in this brief exchange. You have acknowledged that you know what she is doing and removed the cloak of secrecy that often leads to shame. You have given her permission to continue masturbating in private. You have given the activity a name using simple but accurate terms, not euphemisms. You have invited her to talk with you about it and you have shown her that you will respect her privacy by closing the door and knocking before entering.

Best Sex Education Books For Kids

There are two wonderful books that I highly recommend when it comes to sex education of children. It's So Amazing (ages 4-12) and It's Perfectly Normal (ages 13 & up) by Robie Harris. These are terrific resources to have around the house.

Here are some of the basic guidelines from SIECUS (Sex Information and Education Council of the United States). It is OK to let your kids know that you are embarrassed. Find "teachable moments". Don't wait until your children ask questions. When your child asks a question, reward them with a statement like, "I'm glad you came to me." Become aware of the "question behind the question." For example, your child may ask, "Am I normal?" What are they really asking? LISTEN. Ask them what they already know. Remember that facts are not enough. Talk about your feelings, your values and beliefs. Talk about the joys of sexuality. Know what is taught about sexuality in your community. For more information, go to www.siecus.org.


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