How normal is it to masturbate

Oberkirchenrat
Christian Schönfeld

A very insecure father once spoke to me: “My two-year-old daughter has developed a strange evening ritual: When she gets tired, she comes crawling on my lap, lies on my stomach and starts rubbing against me. Her movements become more and more violent and she really heats up. I'm pretty uncomfortable with it because it's so sexual! I could still live with it on my own if I knew that's okay. But it becomes unbearable for me when friends or acquaintances are with us and witness it. I'm already in the watchful position when the little one gets tired and climbs onto my lap to cuddle. Then I notice how I tense up inside and try to "hold my child off my neck". That hurts myself, especially since she sees it as rejection. But it's hard for me to explain to her that I don't like experiencing her sexual activities up close, right ?! How do I react correctly? "

Even teachers in day-care centers occasionally report toddlers - girls or boys - who very conspicuously and loudly satisfy themselves every day during the midday rest before they (can) fall asleep.

What is normal and where are the limits? Will it harm the children if I stop this because I can't stand it? Am I a prude because that's going too far for me? Do I even have to worry about whether the child is being abused? These are the questions from unsettled educators and parents.

When it comes to masturbation, we think of silly jokes and dire threats that result from the time of our (great) grandparents, when all sexual acts that were not carried out with the sole purpose of procreation were officially frowned upon as dirty, instinctual and indecent. Only one function was assigned to sexuality: reproduction for the purpose of preserving the species. Thus, of course, masturbation was considered highly sinful and an irrevocable taboo and was even punished in children.

Today we know that sexuality does not only have to fulfill this one - biological - function. It does a lot more: let's just think about the various emotional and physical aspects such as pleasure (desire, arousal, pleasure, body sensations, feelings of happiness) or relaxation (switching off, feeling relaxed). Not to forget, of course, the social functions that are added in more mature adult sexuality: Our sexuality promotes intimacy and closeness to a loved one as well as the bond and relationship between sexual partners.

Yes, some children stimulate themselves sexually and enjoy it very much, other children don't at all. We don't always have an explanation for it. It is important to note that masturbation does not harm children. In any case, there is no legal connection between child masturbation and child sexual abuse, as is fatally often rashly concluded.

But what about our own feelings and limits when children, in their innocence and childlike egocentrism, let us share in their sexuality without mercy?

Children have to learn: Not everything that we want to do that is good for us is suitable for the public. There are things that need protection, intimacy and privacy that we better enjoy all to ourselves. And we (adults) are also allowed to say if we feel disturbed by it.

Of course, the kindergarten teacher is allowed to say during the afternoon nap: "Sina, that is too loud, it bothers the other children while they are sleeping!" and also that there are social taboos.

And what would you say to the dad from the first example, whose two-year-old daughter masturbates on her stomach on his body? ... I advised him to take his limits seriously and to tell the child that too, maybe like this: “Lena, I like not if you do this to me. Let's cuddle in a different way. ”And then I recommended that he go into action, interrupt the uncomfortable ritual - preferably before it starts - and offer something else that is nice for both of them, such as back scratching , cradle in your arms, tell something or or or. I was sure that he and Lisa had many other ideas and were able to develop an evening ritual that both can enjoy.

Dear parents, do not be afraid of your children's sexuality. It belongs to all of our lives like eating and drinking, like air and light. However, to accompany and cultivate the handling of it with feeling, that is our task as parents and educators.

Uta Troike, psychologist at Kinderarche Sachsen e.V.