Teacher in classroom with young children

Healthy Sexual Behaviors in Children

The birds and the bees. It can be a tough conversation for any parent to have with their children. Rather than avoiding it, prepare early by understanding the childhood stages of healthy sexual growth. Understanding their development stages can better prepare you for “the conversation” and any questions they may ask you about gender, sexuality and relationships along the way.

Military OneSource is here to arm you with the facts on healthy sexual behavior in children. The more you know, the more you can be the best guardians of your military children’s safety and well-being. Providing children with accurate, age-appropriate information is vital to raising safe and healthy kids, and another way to power up your parenting. To that end, we’ve assembled a list of healthy sexual behaviors in children – and resources if your child demonstrates concerning sexual behavior.

Healthy sexual behaviors in children – takeaways for military parents

All children develop sexually beginning at a very early age. Sometimes it can be hard to know which child behaviors are normal and which are concerning. The National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth has looked at the research, and we’ve distilled the common child behaviors by age for you.

0 to 2 years old – Infant to Toddler add
2 to 5 years old – Toddler to Kindergarten add
5 to 8 years old – Elementary School add
9 to 12 years old – Middle School add

More parent-friendly resources to help you learn more about your child’s behavior – and how you can help them grow into happy, healthy adults – can be found at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Learn more about Sexual Development and Behavior in Children and Understanding and Coping with Sexual Behavior Problems in Children.

Addressing unhealthy sexual behaviors in children

If a child’s sexual behavior occurs weekly or daily, involves playmates of vastly different ages or developmental stages, hurts anyone or otherwise forces unwanted sexual activities onto others, that child may be demonstrating concerning or problematic sexual behaviors which warrant an assessment by a professional to ensure the safety and well-being of all children.

As part of the military family, the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program can offer you guidance and access to effective professional help in your area as part of its mission to prevent abuse within the military community. If you need assistance, contact your local installation’s Family Advocacy Program or contact Military OneSource directly by phone or online chat.

Most children who show problematic sexual behaviors respond well to informed parent support, increased guidance and supervision and evidence-based treatment programs, with no future incidents of sexually inappropriate behavior. The Department of Defense is committed to helping the entire military community grow strong together.

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