Mom concerned by “touching” between 7 yr olds

We can learn to keep ourselves safe.

This mom of a second grader is understandably unnerved by her seven-year-old son’s account of being “inappropriate touched” by one of his friends. She’s especially concerned about the possibility that the friend’s actions might have long-term negative affects on her son.

Dear Annie,

My 7-year-old son recently told me that he has been touched inappropriately at school by a friend. Apparently, this was happening for quite a while but my son didn’t want to get the other kid in trouble. I took the necessary steps: spoke with the principal, filed a complaint, etc. The disturbing thing was that my son was the only one the other boy was doing this to.

They have been separated at school because even after our report, the child was still doing this. How will this effect my son later on?  I don’t think my son understands the severity of what has happened and still mentions the other boy in conversation. Is this normal?  If he sees the other boy every day of school, how does that work in a child’s brain?  Do you think we should switch schools?  He has many friends in the school he is in now, but I want to protect him. Thank you for your help.

Dear Mom,

Obviously, these kinds of situations can upset a parent. It might help to remind yourself that it’s normal for young children to be curious about their own bodies and the bodies of their friends. Exploratory behavior driven by that curiosity is not the same thing as adult sexuality. I highly recommend this article to give you some reassurance about what’s ok and what’s not.

You say you don’t think your son understands “the severity” of what’s happened. You haven’t provided enough information for me to evaluate whether what happened is “severe” or not, but it’s clear you deserve support. If you haven’t already done so, please reach out to the school psychologist. Most school districts employ one either on a full-time or part time basis. If there is no school psychologist or school counselor, ask for a referral to a family therapist through your son’s pediatrician. Explain the situation and ask all of your questions. It’s possible the psychologist will ask to speak with your son, alone and/or with your being right there beside him. Hopefully this conversation will help you and your son.

Now let’s talk about the other boy for a moment. It’s good that you talked to the principal. I can’t imagine the principal has not spoken to the other boy’s parents. Repeated overtly sexual behavior in young children may indicate sexual abuse or exposure to adult sexual behavior or content. This child may need professional help and/or protection.

Back to your little boy, it sounds like he could use some practice standing up for himself. It’s not helpful to stay silent when he’s uncomfortable just because he doesn’t want to get someone “in trouble.” His private parts belong to him and no one else. He needs your help understanding how to take care of and respect himself. Before you begin this conversation (and it may well be a series of ongoing conversations), take a look at this Safe Touches Personal Training for Children created by The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. You’ll find very helpful tips on how to empower your son.

I wish you well.

In friendship,


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