Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Playing Doctor

Our oldest son was five years old. He was playing with his friend (3 year old girl), and his little sister (2 years old) upstairs in his friend's room. I was downstairs talking with the little girl's mom. The kids got a bit too quiet, so I went up to check on them.

Picture this scene: My little 2 -year-old daughter is on the floor, naked, in a V-sit. Her older brother and 3-year-old friend are "checking" her out in her genital region. They were playing doctor.

How would you respond????

First, I asked myself a few questions:
1. How old are the children? They were all within three years of age, so that wasn't a concern. If children playing doctor are more than three years apart, it can be considered molestation.

2. What were they actually doing? They were looking and talking, not inserting anything into her vagina or other parts.

3. How were the children feeling? They were all smiling and happy with the game.

4. What other information do I know about this situation? Well, I knew that the little three-year-old girl had been to numerous doctors, always checking her genitals because she had frequent urinary tract infections. In fact, she was getting close to surgery because the doctors weren't sure why she had so many infections (that tells you how often she was getting checked out in her genitals).

Second, CALMLY I told the children that it was time to put their clothes on and come downstairs. I had to help my daughter, as she was still working on dressing herself. I didn't discuss what had happened while they were getting dressed. I was using the time to collect my thoughts and stay calm and positive.

Third, once they were all dressed, I asked more questions.
What game were you playing? (Going to the doctor)
Did everyone have fun? (Yes)

Then, I explained to my children that our bodies are temples (we'd had this discussion, but children need reminders). Did they remember what that meant? It means that we have a spirit and a body. Heavenly Father gave us a body as a house for our spirit. The temple is Christ's house, just like our body is our house for our spirit. We treat it with respect by wearing clothes to cover our special body parts and playing with our clothes on. It's okay to play doctor and other games like that, but we do it with our clothes on.

Who can see our body naked? Doctors, caregivers, and others who help take care of our bodies until we can do it ourselves. They check to make sure we're healthy.

Last, let that child play with the other child again (if possible, unless the other parent will not allow it). If you don't let them play together again, the children will associate the incident with not being able to play with their friend and not associate it with learning respect for bodies. It may also make them feel ashamed, which is a feeling we want them to avoid associating with sexuality.

Note 1: It is absolutely age appropriate for children to go through this phase. It is not harmful, generally. It's actually a wonderful teaching opportunity. Red flags to look for are children more than three years apart and any unhappiness from the children playing. If they felt forced into playing or they became uncomfortable at some point, the play then turned into something that may require more attention.

Note 2: STAYING CALM IS ESSENTIAL!!!!!! Imagine you are having an argument with your spouse or a loved one. One of you starts yelling. What happens? The other one starts to yell. Then, the first person yells louder to be heard.......and so on. What listening is occuring? NONE. Ten years from the incident, the partners may not remember what the argument was about, but they will likely remember the feelings they felt during the argument. Your child will remember your reaction more than anything else from an incident with playing doctor. What do you want them to learn????? You are either teaching them that there is something mysterious and dangerous about their genitals that leads to yelling and unhappy feelings, or you are teaching them that bodies are beautiful, wonderful, and sacred, and there are things we do to respect them and keep them sacred.

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