This week’s Dr. Mom Mondays comes from an anonymous reader. It makes perfect sense as the internet is forever and this week’s topic is delicate. I’m not going to lie: When this question came in, I was overwhelmed with relief that I don’t have to deal with this issue. I’m sure my day will come, but I kind of feel like I’ve dodged a bullet. For now.
You can send your Dr. Mom Mondays questions to morgan(at)thelittlehenhouse(dot)com.
Question: My six-year-old son gets very embarrassed when he gets erections. He runs into his room and slams the door so we won’t come in. How should I handle this?
Dr. Mom says: Here is that topic of privacy again – such a tough one (you can read Dr. Mom’s earlier post on privacy policies here). To help your child understand what is happening to his body as well as get more comfortable with it, follow some simple concepts:
First, be honest. Use correct names for body parts if possible (unless he is used to other names so will only understand them). Give accurate information.
Also, try your very best to keep a very matter-of-fact tone of voice when you talk about sexual matters. You might even need to practice rehearsing aloud with someone else (your husband, a friend) until you get used to talking about sex in a child’s terms. Kids will pick up our awkward feelings if we aren’t very careful, so try to get as comfortable with sexual topics as you can.
In addition, give only as much information as the child wants or needs. Be ready for more questions so you build on information over time.
So your specific talk might sound like this:
Just so you know, Jimmy, what is happening to your penis is called an erection. All boys and men get erections. They are completely normal. Sometimes boys or men like the feeling of touching their penis, and that can cause an erection. You can do this in a private place if you decide to, like your bedroom.
Sometimes boys and men don’t want to have an erection and it happens anyway. In that case you can go pee and that should make it go away. If you ever want to understand even more what your body is doing when it makes an erection happen, we can read a book about it so I can give you more information.
In addition, you and your husband should respond as little as possible when your son runs to his bedroom and shuts you out. As you think nothing of it, he will do the same with time. Just be sure to give him the information above at some time it isn’t an issue (in the car, tucking him into bed). Then allow him whatever time he needs to get comfortable with his body and its functions.
As soon as your child brings up sexual topics, it is very helpful to have a sex ed book or two around that your child can have you read often. Where Did I Come From is a very good book, used for decades by parents who want to be prepared for any questions that might come up. You can find many others online and at book stores.
Mary Quinn has a Ph.D. in Therapeutic Psychology and is Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in San Diego. She is also a wife of 31 years, a mother of three, a step-mother of two, a grandmother of seven, a passionate gardener, and a writer. She survived a childhood as the only girl with five brothers, and always wears red toenail polish.
Thanks Dr. Mom!