Questions and Answers About Sex: What Do I Do if I Catch My Child Playing “Doctor”?
You’re so excited for your kids to have a play date with their good friends they haven’t seen in months. They come over, and you and their mother are catching up when you notice that the noise level has died down.
Children’s curiosity about their own and other’s bodies starts as young as two or three years old.
And you both know that when things get quiet, your four-, five-, and six-year-old children are usually up to something. You and your friend get out your squirt bottles, and sneak up on the children to give them a good surprise for their mischief. You quietly climb the stairs, to where the children are playing. However, instead of surprising the children, you two open the door to the playroom and find that your children are in their birthday suits, playing doctor! They look up at you, and your son proclaims, “I have a penis mommy!”
This situation is a definite shock to most parents, and it creates feelings of fear in many people, due to the extreme, life-long, and detrimental effects of sexual abuse. Although this is a shocking experience for most, it is a common and normal experience for most children. Children’s curiosity about their own and other’s bodies starts as young as two or three years old.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) suggests that attempts to “show and tell” or “play doctor” may continue until the child is ten to eleven years old, when children may start puberty and desire greater privacy.
The NCTSN suggest that these normal developmental curiosities generally happen between children that are alike in age and size. The fact it is normal does not necessarily take away the shock factor, or make it okay. So, many parents ask the question, “What do I do when I catch my child playing doctor?”