Needing to take a writing break, so today is a remix of an old post from October of 2008. Retro Christine, if you will.
It'll make you go blind.
You'll grow hair on your palms.
It will keep you from ever having babies.
Am I missing any? Any more classic myths out there that mothers have used for centuries, in hopes that their children would live in fear of ever touching themselves?
The truth is that every single child explores their body - every inch of it. The truth is that masturbation brings pleasure. The truth is that some children masturbate to calm themselves or to fall asleep or just because they are bored.
So, YOU SHOULD TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT MASTURBATION!
I know, I know. I've already made you talk to them about sex, and you would THINK this would be easier. Yet, your heart palpitations are saying otherwise. Just sit down. Put your head between your knees (NO, I'm not going to make you look - just trying to calm you down!!). Take slow, cleansing breaths. Don't move on until you're ready.
First, realize that most children masturbate looooooooooooong before they have any sexual thoughts. Some babies and toddlers masturbate. It happens. It might be happening down the hall from you. Don't freak. Even young children may be masturbating without their parents ever knowing. You can take pride in knowing you have a very bright kid that figured out a way to chill and enjoy life without spending any money! Does that help? No? Okay, well just remember that your child is not a sexual deviant, a victim of abuse and they are not alone. Just google, "Help! My child is masturbating!" and you'll figure that out pretty quickly.
Second, it's something to discuss, not fix. The best thing you can give your child is a supportive voice and loving eyes as you talk with them.
Third, you should remind your child that many people find ways of touching their bodies in a way that feels very good and relaxing (like shoulder massages). When you touch your genitals, it is called masturbation. You need to explain to your child that genitalia are a little more sensitive than some other areas. It's important to have clean hands anytime you touch openings to your body. Also, it is possible that you can cause dry skin or irritation. The example I have used over the years is that, while it may feel good to rub your eyes when you are first waking up, it is possible to rub them to harshly or too long - causing them to be sore or even causing some damage. You should listen to your body. You should take good care of it, and always ask Mom or Dad if there is anything that is sore or tender.
Fourth, your child needs to know when and where it is appropriate to masturbate. Again - there is no guilt in exploring your body, but it is perfectly acceptable to have guidelines in your home that respect everyone's comfort and privacy. Talk about it. Have refresher discussions as they grow.
Finally, you should love your sons enough to prepare them for the "Old Faithful" experience that is approaching as they near puberty. Imagine, you are a tween and your body is doing all of this crazy stuff. Your penis wakes YOU up most mornings. It's like it has a mind of its own ... and then one day Mr. Semen makes his grand debut. That's all well and good, but what if this happens while they're in bed or ASLEEP? How, exactly, do you escort Mr. Semen to a proper receptacle? Is this normal? WHAT IS GOING ON??
They need to know what is going to happen. They deserve to feel okay about these changes, and realize it's a part of growing up. Puberty gives our kids enough to wig out about. Let's not keep them in the dark about the most natural of changes.
My husband and I both talk to our kids about these issues. Sometimes separately. Sometimes together. Always a lot. Again, don't expect your boys to come bounding in, begging you to talk about sexual issues with them! They won't. Just do it. As your kids near the age where they are going to start having sexual thoughts, that is when you start to discuss your views on respecting and honoring the opposite sex in regard to masturbation. This is when you can help your sons begin to think about treating every person with respect in their hearts, minds (and penises). This is the opportune time to have a very frank discussion about pornography. Note I said "discussion" - not lecture. Back-and-forth. TALK about it WITH them. Hear them.
Now, we are all vastly different. My readers come from a crazy array of backgrounds and beliefs. You should all have this discussion in a way that reflects your beliefs. By not talking about it, you hand them over to their peers for information. You build a wall in your home. You want to keep the lines of communication open, and your kids want to know what YOU think. They really do. They're not going to tell you that, but in 20 years they may tell you how they regretted to have more personal discussions while they were still living at home.
Say it with me: ma-stur-ba-tion!
You can do this. I believe in you!
(photo by Steve Woods)