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This Is How To Have The ‘Masturbation Talk’ With Your Tween Or Teen

While we all joke that we wish we could keep our babies in a bubble of childlike innocence forever, the universe has other plans. So, here you are, pondering a question all parents must face at some point: How do you talk to your tween or teenager about masturbation? And while this topic may make you feel uncomfortable, give yourself credit. The fact that you’re here shows that you’re committed to raising your child in a way that encourages a healthy understanding of sexual behavior and their body. That’s a big deal, Mama.

It goes without saying that growing up is natural, and a part of that evolution is exploring our bodies. Yes, our… as weird as it may be for you to think about, your parents were once at this very crux, wondering what sort of self-exploration is quote-unquote normal and how to talk to you about it. But since you likely don’t remember that convo, you’re probably looking for a refresher.

Now that you have kids of your own and they’ve reached a certain age, the likelihood that you could walk in on your child self-touching increases exponentially. You need some talking points, right? To help navigate this conversation, Scary Mommy reached out to several experts and sex educators about what to do if you walk in on your child (boy, girl, or non-binary) masturbating — and how to foster important dialogue about self-touching.

What do you do if you catch your tween or teen “in the act?”

We tapped licensed marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney, who blogs about these very kinds of conversations at KeepTheTalkGoing.com, to find out. In speaking with her, she pointed out that it’s first important to quite literally check yourself at the door. “If you walk in on your preteen or teen playing with themselves, the first thing to do is to apologize and walk back out,” she told Scary Mommy. “The second thing is to catch your breath. It’s weird to think of your kid as having sexual feelings and masturbating, but there is absolutely nothing wrong about that. It’s completely normal for any child who’s gone through puberty — and even ones who haven’t — to self-pleasure.”

Why else should parents be okay with their tween or tween self-pleasuring?

This one’s simple, according to Whitney — it teaches young people that (a) they have agency over their own bodies and (b) what they’re comfortable with. “It’s a great way for teens, especially girls, to learn about what feels good for them. That’s useful information when the time comes that they’re considering sex with a partner. If they know that sex should feel good and what that means for them, they’re more likely to expect that in a partner, rather than acquiescing to something that doesn’t feel good to them.”


How soon after walking in on them should you broach the subject?

If you think you’re too upset to talk to your kid about what you just walked in on, it’s best to shelve the conversation until you’ve had time to process and recalibrate your feelings. But even if you think you’re ready to have that convo right this second, put a pin in it. You’re probably a little embarrassed. Your tween or teen is definitely embarrassed. “Give yourself and your kid a couple of days to recover from the worst of the embarrassment,” Whitney advised.

What specifically should you say to your teen or tween about masturbation?

Are you ready? Good. Take a deep breath, find a quiet moment when your kid is relaxed and no one else is around. Then, open a dialogue. Whitney recommends tweaking these talking points in a way that feels organic to you:


About what happened [insert day]… I’m sorry I walked in on you. Next time lock the door, okay? [smile] So, this is awkward, but I just want to say that it’s completely normal to touch yourself. I’m sorry if I looked freaked out; it’s just weird for me to see how you’re growing up. But you haven’t done anything wrong.”

According to Whitney, your kid will likely (and not surprisingly) groan and leave the room, but that’s okay. “You’ve addressed an emotionally charged issue and normalized what’s really normal behavior,” she said.

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Emma Holland

Emma Holland

On pregnancy now, willing to share personal experience and knowledges~

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