Sexual Talk in Children

Parent Q&A

  • My son's best friend just came out and seems to be flourishing with a newly found freedom. While all of his friends were supportive of him (the are much more mature third graders than I was at that age), a new issue has emerged over the past six weeks (longer, but we took a break from school and traveled for the holidays). My son's friend says things to my son that make my son uncomfortable. He does this with three other friends from their group. With my son (age almost 9), he asks him to go into private rooms of the school to touch my son in his private areas and tells my son he knows he "wants him."

    My son is very naive at this stage so I don't know if he realizes what it means but he's been coming home from school upset. I told him to have his friend over for a playdate so I could monitor. When I'm around, they play, run around and so on. I did sneak up onto them while they were playing in our backyard and I witnessed my son's friend say, "can I lick your -----" (don't know if I'm allowed to write body parts here). "I love you so much. I want to touch it NOWWWWWWW." My son ran in to find me (I had to beat him back to the kitchen) and told me the before part that happened while they were playing earlier that I DID NOT hear, plus this last part, exactly how I heard it. In fact, he left some words out.

    Yesterday at school, he wanted my son to play a game on the playground and my son said, "I don't want to play with you" and the boy cried. He went to the principal's office and said my son was bully. I didn't get called in but in passing to pay tuition, I ran into the VP of the school and she indicated that my son might be mixed up with the wrong kids (we are a tight knit group and I haven't heard this before; I'm open to possibilities but I really don't think he's bullying this friend). At tennis yesterday,  the same friend was in the bathroom as they were changing from swim team practice and he said, "c'mon I want to touch it now." Other kids heard, ran out of the bathroom, at which point I only heard them laughing. My son came out in tears and told me the story along with another friend (their stories aligned almost entirely in unison). Their other friend had less than nice things to say about what happened.

    I spoke to the boy's mother (the one who is saying these things to my son) and this morning, I got a letter from an attorney. Apparently, my son has said some slanderous remarks when it comes to him saying "no" to this boy ("Gross, that's disgusting. I won't let you touch my --------" and "What is wrong with you. Stop wanting to look at pictures of ------ with hair" (apparently he has a magazine with pictures of this). I will probably have to go down the legal action road. I guess my question is, in this day and age, are we doing something wrong here? We have been so supportive of our little friend coming out. Also, not at the discomfort of my own child. *I have never spoke about this issue with any other parent except my spouse, my father-in-law, who was visiting from Europe, and now here. 

    I don't think those remarks are slanderous.  They're opinions, in my opinion.  Ask that the principal and teachers give a lesson, and then another lesson, about not speaking about others' private parts, or touching them, and appropriate behavior in the bathroom.  Consider attending a workshop.  

    9 yrs old is not too young to come out, and not too young to be curious about sex and bodies, but it is too young for hypersexualized and coercive behavior, which this is. This is often is a huge flag for sexual abuse, and I am worried for that on behalf of your child’s friend. I’m queer and want to be clear—supporting a child who id’s as gay does not include tolerating non consensual behavior. And a nine year old of any orientation needs to understand what consent looks like, and needs support if they can’t understand why it isn’t ok to pressure other kids. I would support your child in setting kind but clear boundaries: I do not want to do that and if you ask me again I will find an adult and I will not be able to play with you again. Document, and send in writing to the school and parents. I wouldn’t let my child play unsupervised with a kid displaying these behaviors. I hope he gets some support. 

    Wow. Just wow. I am not a lawyer but I'm pretty sure this family has no legal recourse here. In fact, if anything, you might. What your child is experiencing is sexual harassment. FULL STOP. You need to protect him now. Pull him out of the school if you need to. Do not engage in future play dates. Get him a therapist. Put everything you have heard/seen in writing and request a meeting with the school. I know you mean well by trying to protect this "friend" but coming out does not excuse sexual harassment and if the school is not made aware and does not make this child's parents aware, then he will not learn, and more people will become traumatized as a result. Your priority should be your child so please protect him, involve the school, and do not engage with this family anymore.