Talking to Kids About Masturbation
Most parents seem to dread “the talk,” just as much as as their kids do.
For some folks, this probably stems from their own awkward conversation that they may have had (or more than likely did not have) with their own parents, teacher, or other adult figure. It may also stem from the fear of scarring your child or telling them information too early that will then make them want to debut their sexuality earlier.
While all of these fears are understandable, there is a multitude of research that supports comprehensive sex education over abstinence-only education. While there are a large of topics that can be addressed around talking to kids about sex, it seems like masturbation is one that gets glossed over often and is worth addressing.
Why should we talk to our kids about masturbation? Whether you think it’s a sin or that it’s dirty or inappropriate, or you just don’t know what to say… you need to talk about it. Why? Because otherwise, you will have stories like I have heard in my own office of things like, “I was terrified when cum came out… I had no idea what it was!” “I thought I was dying or something was leaking out of me,” “I thought I would use up my sperm too soon,” “I was afraid that something was wrong with me,” “I had no idea that a woman could even experience pleasure… that it was even an option for me!”
The stories go on and on. If we do not talk to kids about masturbation, we are missing a huge part of their growth and development that can play a big role in their life later.
Do you know that the average age of accessing porn is now 8 years old?
Do you really want your kid learning about sex from a production that can misrepresent how sex should actually be?
I am not here to shame you and am definitely not here to shame porn, because ethical porn does exist (!) BUT I am here to say that most of my clients end up with some strange perceptions about sex because no one took the time to talk to them about it… even if they eventually learned down the road how to improve their sexual/erotic experiences.
So how do you go about talking to your child about masturbation?
Start talking to them about their anatomy, using the correct terms, sooner rather than later. Being able to know their own body parts and speak about them without shame is huge! It helps decrease shame and body negativity and encourages them to love every part of who they are.
Here’s a sample of how to actually talk to them about it: “As you get older, you may start to hear people talking about an activity called ‘masturbation’ or ‘solo play’ or ‘self-pleasure’. I want you to know a little bit about that, since it’s a normal part of life. You know how you have a penis/vulva? You may have already discovered this, but there are times that your penis/vulva can experience really good feelings - sort of like the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you get a hug or the funny feeling you get when someone tickles you. This is normal. Some people choose to explore their penis/vulva to make the good feeling last longer. When this happens, sometimes you’ll have what’s called an orgasm. That’s a SUPER good feeling and you tend to feel really relaxed afterwards. (For penis owners) your penis will probably release something called sperm. It’s white, wet, and a little sticky. That’s normal! You just want to make sure you clean it up with a tissue or wet towel. Masturbation is something that you do on your own. No one else does that for you and no one else should do that for you. When you’re much older, you may wish to have a partner explore your penis/vulva too, but that’s a topic for another day. Just know that masturbation is something you can do during your own private time (in your bedroom or the bathroom). Everyone has a right to discover it on their own, so don’t feel like you need to run around showing other people how to do it… they’ll figure it out eventually. If you have more questions about it, let me know!”
This is a pretty simple version and you can obviously modify it however you feel is appropriate. The biggest thing to remember is that if you feel or appear awkward, your kid will feel the same way, so try to stay calm and normalize their experience. Be open to answering questions, though it’s quite likely they’ll run off and go back to their normal routine. If they ask how to masturbate, you can suggest they do some self-exploration. Tell them they can get a hand mirror and look at their genitals and explore touching them in ways that feel good to them. If they still feel lost or confused, let them know that now might not be the time to explore and that they can try again later when they are a little older.
DO NOT SHAME THEM. Ah! For the amount of clients I have that struggle with sexual shame because someone yelled at them for masturbation or told them they were gross/dirty (if you do think it’s gross, take some time to reflect on why you think that). If you catch your kid masturbating, give them a chance to clean up and come back and discuss. If they’re a little kid in the grocery store playing around with themselves because they’re too young to know otherwise, get down on their level and let them know what they are doing isn’t appropriate for the grocery store and that you can talk about it more when you get home. Then talk about it.
I urge you to normalize self-pleasure and to decrease shame/stigma around it. Self-exploration goes a long way when a couple is getting together for the first time and want to explain what works/doesn’t work for them. It’s very difficult to convey which erotic acts are pleasurable if you yourself don’t know your own body.
So, take some time, practice your speech, and get to it! Be clear on what values you want to communicate and be gentle. Best of luck!