OK, my best friend's little girl has been kissing my son and they are only 7. What should I do about it?
From: AllieCat, Hampton, TN
Here are a few things to consider:
1. Most likely your your son thought it was icky that she kissed him, and told it to you in that context.
2. Most likely her reason for kissing him is because she's exposed to popular culture (possibly, inappropriate popular culture) that has made her (a) curious about kissing, and (b) think that this is what girls and boys are supposed to do.
You know how sometimes you react to something and that makes the something a bigger deal in kids' minds? This is one of those things. The bigger your reaction, the more likely your son will be more curious about kissing as in, "This must be a big deal if mom is making such a fuss about it. I wonder why? " So now he's thinking about it even though initially it wasn't on his radar screen.
Your best response is one that's matter-of-fact: "Ohhh. Yeah, that is kind of icky. You're way too young for kisses. You know, if she wants to kiss you again, just tell her kissing is for when you're older." However, I would (at a later point) use this as a teachable moment to open a dialogue with your son about sexuality and about being in charge of your own body. I'd start by saying, "You know, kissing is something people do when they want to show they care about someone. X kissed you because she likes you. It's nice to have someone like you! But sometimes you don't want to be kissed and that's OK. You're in charge of your own body."
Should you tell your friend? Sure. But not in a shocked "OMG" kind of way, more in a "You-know-she-might-be-watching-too-much -TV" kind of way. Because that's one of the bottom lines for me: Our culture markets sexuality to kids at a very young age and the more they see, the more they think, "This is what people do. I should do this, too." Which is why it's so important for parents to be monitoring what they watch and interpreting the messages pitched at them.
Susan Linn has an excellent chapter on this in her book, "Consuming Kids, protecting our children from the onslaught of marketing & advertising." Girls and boys alike are vulnerable, girls to the marketing, boys to the pornography. (See also Diane Levin & Jean Kilbourne's book, "So sexy so soon, The new sexualized childhood and what parents can do to protect their kids.")
Oh, and while we're at it, my favorite book to use to talk about sexuality is, "Where Did I Come From?" by Peter Mayle. (It's also available in video.) And yes, he's 7. It's time.
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