Here is the original article I did for iVillage I gave you a bit more than a teaser this time because a lot was edited out.
When I first sat down to write this article I couldn’t help but snicker; not because this seems like an amusing predicament to be in, but because the topic tested my maturity level. A nervous wave came over me as I reluctantly imagined this scenario and all I could think was “Awkward.” As awkward as this circumstance is for the parent, consider the gut wrenching embarrassment from a child’s point of view. I know, simply empathizing could make you red in the face. In fact, at 30-whatever I am, I still wouldn’t want to have a conversation on the subject with one of my own parents.
So, what’s a parent to do when they’re confronted with such a touchy (no pun intended) situation? Sunday’s episode of Mad Men answered this very question, when 10-year-old Sally Draper was caught playing with herself at a sleepover. Betty Draper (her mom) treated the incident as “unnatural,” and “immoral.” She’s was certain her daughter’s diddling would become the talk of the town and immediately made an appointment to have Sally’s head shrunk.
Boy, we’ve come a long way since the straight laced sixties when shame was piled on kids for such depraved acts. Parents of the past often handled such situations with trips to see a doctor a clergyman or inane scare tactics like “You’ll go blind,” “You’ll grow hair on your palms,” and the ultimate threat, “You’ll go to hell.”
Though some people may retain these archaic views, most of us modern folk realize that masturbating is natural and normal. The question is how to make a child understand that, after the unfortunate and embarrassing incident in which you catch them in the act. Talk about everyone needing some good therapy. Well, behavioral therapist, Alison Astair says that it’s not really masturbation in a toddler or young child, “they’re just stimulating their genitals because it feels good. There’s really nothing sexual about it.” As a mother, I know that at this age it’s not really embarrassing for a child to get caught with their hands down their pants; it’s as innocent as carrying a wooby. That said, Astair feels it’s important not to make a big deal out of it. “Your reaction may teach your child. The last thing you want to do is set your child up to think that their body is ‘bad’ or ‘dirty.’” If you’re uncomfortable with it, or your toddler diddles in public; distract and redirect.
To find out what to do if the child is older: READ MORE
Have you ever caught your child “in the act?” What did you do?