Questions From Readers

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: April 24, 2011 | Topic: Questions from readers

Questions From Readers


I want to know why my 9-year-old would put things in his anus and get an erection. Does this mean that he was sexually abused by someone or is this normal? He just started to do this in the bathroom, and he has not ever seen this on TV or by his dad and me.

This is very unusual behavior for a 9-year-old, and warrants further investigation. If you are comfortable speaking with your son, ask him some questions about this behavior. When did he start doing this? How often does it happen? Where did he get the idea to do this? Reassure him that he is not in trouble for anything he says to you. Please be very careful not to ask any leading questions.

If you are uneasy with this, speak with your family doctor or have your child seen by a mental health professional who specializes in working with young children. While this behavior may be due to a history of sexual abuse, it may also be the result of interactions he has had with other children, or perhaps something he has seen on the internet.

This behavior is very concerning. Please look into this right away.

At what age should parents have the “sex talk” with their child?

These discussions should start when your child is a toddler and continue throughout his or her childhood. Initially, the focus would be on helping children know the correct names for private parts of their bodies. This is a great opportunity to talk about privacy and empowering young children to say “no” to any child or adult who tries to touch them inappropriately.

Throughout grade school, conversations should progress to such topics as pregnancy and puberty. Be prepared to explain to your child the commercials for Cialis, questions that are typically asked at rather inconvenient times! By the time your children physically mature, they should be knowledgeable about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention. During such conversations, don’t focus just on sexual facts but also on feelings and values.

Don’t worry about always trying to give the perfect answer to your child’s questions. Approach this in a relaxed and calm matter. Your main goal is communicate that you are an “askable” and approachable parent.

I’ve learned three important rules from parents about talking to kids about sex. First, never tell a child her or she is too young to get an answer to his or her question. Second, use contemporary events as a way to start a conversation about such topics. TV shows and news stories provide a wonderful opportunity to both explain and share your values about sexual behavior. Finally, do this often, at least several times a year. Talking about sexual issues at the dinner table helps take the mystery and embarrassment out of some of these issues, and makes it easier for your child to engage in ongoing discussion with you.

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Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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