Q: My 6 year old stepdaughter has been caught touching herself more then once. She has also been caught trying to get the dog on top of her to hump her. She also talks about wanting to have sexual relations with boys. She has been told to stop and we have explained why all this is very wrong behavior. We have four other girls and one son, and I am worried about them being around her. Is this normal? What can we do to stop it? Does she need help?
A: All children are very curious about sexuality with their own bodies and the bodies of other people and animals. But 6 year olds usually have enough social judgment and tact to keep these normal explorations private. Your stepdaughter sounds preoccupied with sexual intercourse in ways that are not normal--you are describing a kind of compulsive interest in sex taht is often seen in children who have been molested or who have been exposed to adult sexual behavior in inappropriate ways. If this is the case, it is possible that she is still being victimized, and it is also possible that she may victimize another child. You are wise to be worried about her, and I agree that she needs professional help from an exeprt who works with young children and who can get to the bottom of this behavior.
Ask your family doctor or pediatrician for a referral to see a mental health professional who can evaluate and treat a 6 year old showing inappropriate sexual preoccupations. Your local department of child welfare is another potential resource for names of professionals who are experienced with this kind of situation. The right person will be kind, helpful, and respectful to you and your stepdaughter. Meanwhile, be empathic and calm with your stepdaughter. Avoid cnfronting her with questions, which may backfire.Your shock and wish to criticise her is probably not constructive because she is not acting out of ordinary mischief. Remember that she can't help her behavior and it is not her fault.