Is it normal for kids to play doctors and nurses?
?WE have a very stressful family situation going on. My son is aged just five and is being branded a pervert. Him and his cousin, a girl the same age as him, were found in her bedroom with their pants down. My sister-in-law
THE apparent sexual behaviour of children can be disruptive, distressing and even destructive for family harmony. Over the years, I have heard so many stories of families that have been torn apart by the behaviour of their child or another child, where it appears to be sexually motivated.
However, based on what you describe, I think your son is being unfairly demonised for what is normal behaviour for children aged five. He and his cousin seemed, from what you say, to be expressing a fairly typical curiosity about each other’s bodies, which is common amongst that age group.
Five-year-olds are quite likely to begin to wonder, ‘where do babies come from?’ Or if they already know they came from their mother’s tummy, may be keen to know how they got in there in the first place. Children their age may show interest in their own genitals or the genitals of other children of either sex.
We commonly allude to this interest by jokingly referring to the “you show my yours and I’ll show you mine…” phase that children went ballistic and she is refusing now to let him come near their house. She reported my son to the Gardai and we have had a call from a social worker who is due to come and visit. My brother is siding with his wife on the matter. We can’t talk to them. I thought it was normal enough to play doctors and nurses at their age? can exhibit. Children of their age may hug and kiss each other and may play doctors and nurses, complete with full examination!
We need to understand that these kinds of behaviours do not carry the same adult sexual intent, or even awareness of sexuality, that make them sexual activities per se. They may involve the sexual body parts, but they are not sexual in their motivation.
So, it would be really helpful to know exactly what your son and niece were doing in the room with their pants down. If it is the case that they were just checking out each others’ bodies, even if that involved touching as well as looking, then I don’t think there is anything to be alarmed about.
If, however, they were simulating sex (oral sex or penetrative sex) then their behaviour is more worrying and does require a much more significant evaluation, to try to determine where either or both of them may have learned those kinds of behaviours.
I think you will find that the social workers will be much more concerned if the children were mimicking sex in any way.
Assuming that your son’s and his cousin’s behaviour was at the more typical, curiosity-based end of the spectrum, it does, nonetheless, warrant a conversation about bodies and about privacy. So, I think you’ll need to talk to him about his private parts, and girls’ private parts being off-limits for touching.
An easy way to help children his age understand which parts of the body are private is to refer to the parts that are usually covered by swimming togs. Do use the correct language and terminology, referring to his penis and his cousin’s vulva or vaginal area.
I think it is really important that your son knows that he is not a bad child for what he did. It is perfectly fine for him to learn that it isn’t OK to touch other people on their private parts, but do make sure you differentiate between him as a person and his behaviour.
It would also be really important to have a full and frank conversation with your brother and sister-in-law. Perhaps someone else in the family might broker a sit-down meeting where you could all discuss what actually went on, with a view to clarifying the full nature and extent of what the two were up to with their pants down.
Having social work involved may be a good thing, as it will, hopefully, shed light on the actuality of what happened and the shared (or otherwise) nature of their behaviour.
I think your son deserves an opportunity to avoid being pilloried and vilified for what seems to be normal five-year-old behaviour.