What To Do If You Suspect Your Preteen/ Teen Is Masturbating?

Have you noticed that you preteen/teen may be spending more time in the bathroom, have their music turned up loud, you’ve discovered pornography in their online search history or asking for more privacy? Your child may be masturbating, and may not want you to find out about it. So what do you do? First of all RELAX, this is perfectly normal behavior for your preteen/teen to engage in. Next take the time to do some self reflection, how do you feel about masturbation, what were you taught (if anything) about masturbating at this same age, how do you want your preteen/teen to view masturbation? Would this be an acceptable alternative to have sexual intercourse? If you feel comfortable about it, have an open, honest, candid conversation with them while you and your preteen/teen are both in a relaxed stated to reduce the tension in the air. You may not have to come out and ask them if they are engaging in masturbation, but talk to them as their parent, about your views. Be careful not to shame your preteen/teen, but instead instill rules and boundaries about where they can and cannot have their ‘private time’. Depending on their age and what you and your preteen/teen have already talked about previously, it may be a good time to ask them other questions about their sexual history. If they have been watching pornography, address it. Explain that pornography is not safe for them to watch and that there may be consequences if it keeps happening. This can also be a good opportunity to reinforce the value and beliefs you want your preteen/teen to learn from you about sex, whether it be abstinence until marriage, or safe/healthy sexual practices.

If you do not feel comfortable having this conversation, ask yourself why this may be difficult for you to address at this time? If you find that having this conversation may be more harmful than good, to you or your preteen/teen, maybe you can turn to another adult family member, or friend, you trust and your preteen/teen trust  to have the conversation with them for you. Children, at any age, want to feel validated by their parents. They care about what you think about them, so consider this a sensitive subject to address with them. Use this time to affirm your love for them, and your desire for them to succeed to become healthy happy adults. Once again RELAX, yes your child is growing up, but that’s why they have you, as their parent(s), to guide them.

Tia Evans, MSW, LCSWA Sex Therapist