Are you ready to talk about the M Word?

Dear My Little Yoni,

What's the 'M' Word? How to talk to your kids about Masturbation? I worry about sharing this information with her too early! I can tell she has become more curious about her body, but I don't know if she's ready for that conversation. Really, I don't know if I'm READY for this talk!" - Georgia, 41

First off, take a breath mama! I promise no matter how you think the conversation goes; your daughter will be better off for having it. Secondly, every parent makes their own decision about when to have this conversation. For some, it's when puberty begins, for others they don't have it at all! So, give yourself a pat on the back for grappling with something that isn't easy. Talking to your child about self-pleasure isn't simple, especially when your young child is female. Oftentimes, parents themselves never had a conversation about the natural behavior of self-pleasure! But the fact of the matter is "Masturbation is developmentally normal for young children."


Is it early to talked about The 'M' Word?


Whether you choose to have the conversation or not, let it be known that it's still happening. The main difference: will it be in the context of openness and honesty, or will it be shrouded in shame and hiding?

I'm not suggesting bombard your kids with information on masturbation before they're ready for it, but to instead plant this idea: "it's natural to explore your body parts in the privacy of your own room." If you see your daughter rubbing her genitals manually or on objects, don't freak out! Oftentimes, the immediate reaction is to stop them and tell them the behavior is inappropriate. But this will inevitably give your child the idea that masturbation is inappropriate behavior, and shrouded in shame altogether, which simply isn't true. Instead, see it as an opportunity to have an honest conversation about what's appropriate. Try saying, "Your body is YOURS, and you can touch your yoni in your own private space." Setting the boundaries early on and not condemning the activity altogether will allow your child to have a healthy relationship to pleasure and their body.


It's important to distinguish the difference between pleasure and sex.


When young children touch their genitals, it's not because they feel sexual, it's because they feel pleasure. All they know about this activity is that it feels good. Masturbation is natural, and therefore self-pleasure is natural.

If you worry that Masturbation will lead to earlier sexual activity, know that these fears are unfounded and inaccurate. In fact, girls who have a healthy relationship to masturbation typically engage in partnered sexual activity later in life. Furthermore, they have an easier time communicating their needs to partners if they do decide to become sexually active. However, when girls are left in the dark, it's much more common for them to accept being treated as sexual objects and tolerate painful sexual experiences.

How can you expect them to speak up when they don't know the difference or have the language to speak about it? But if girls have a direct relationship with their own vulvas and pleasure, they are more likely to have a voice and more choice when it comes to partnered sexual relationships later in life. If your child needs more explanation than, "this is your yoni, you can touch it in your own private space," and has more questions about arousal, then you might need to explain the idea of pleasure and sexual pleasure to them. Explaining to them accurately how their body reacts to arousal, stimulation, and satisfaction will ultimately let them know that this is normal, and everyone's bodies have these natural reactions. Often, when parents begin these conversations, they can feel uncomfortable and don't know where to start. Try being open and honest with them about your own masturbation experiences, this lets your child know they aren't alone. If your child still has more questions, just try to give them honest and accurate information as best as you can. Luckily, My Little Yoni has tons of resources for parents, including our new Yoni Magic: What's the 'M' Word? Use this as a resource, and know that you are giving your child accurate and OBGYN approved information.


Talking to your child about masturbation and self-pleasure is an important talk, but not an easy one!


You have to discern when your child is ready, what information to give them, and keep it all positive and affirming. I want to remind you that with this topic, like most sex education, the conversation will be ongoing. Your child may be satisfied with you saying "this is your yoni, you can explore it and touch it in your own private space," or they may be ready to talk about arousal and sexual desire. It all depends on your child's development. Try rehearsing these talks to ensure you're ready to discuss self-pleasure whenever your child is. If you still walk away from this column thinking, "I still have no idea what to say!" take a look at our latest book, Yoni Magic: What's the 'M' Word?. It's part of our comprehensive sex education book series, and it covers everything from what pleasure is, sexual health, to arousal, to how to self-pleasure. You and your kid can read it and discuss what you've both learned together. Once again, don't stress parent, you got this!