By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist
Edition: June 22, 2008 | Topic: Questions from readers
Question:What's the difference between sexual abuse and normal sexual exploration? Something happened with my 5-year-old daughter and I don't want to overreact, but I am worried. I've read that sexual play is very common at her age, but I'm concerned that what happened wasn't normal.
Answer:Sexual exploration among youngsters is not uncommon. Here are some of the factors to consider in distinguishing between normal behaviors and sexual abuse.
First, what is the age difference between the children? The greater the age difference, the greater the likelihood that the activities would be viewed as abusive.
Second, was there any type of force or coercion involved? I would be very concerned if one child threatened or forced another child to be involved in any sexual acts, irrespective of the age difference between them.
Third, it's important to consider the type of sexual activities that occurred. Any touching or rubbing of the front genital area or looking at private parts is not unusual. However, my concern would increase if there was any type of oral or anal sexual activities between the youngsters.
Fourth, try to find out if this was a single episode or involved repeated sexual acts. This can be difficult to determine as youngsters are very reluctant to disclose such activities for fear of being punished.
Finally, it is important to consider whether this was a single sexual act with one child, or whether this involved incidents with more than one youngster.
Given your concerns, I would suggest that you consult with your family doctor as well as your local child protection agency. In situations of potential sexual abuse, it's better to err on the side of being cautious and make certain that a full investigation has been completed.
Question:As a first time mom, I feel tremendous resentment toward my 3-month-old daughter. Prior to her birth, I had a great relationship with my husband, a wonderful job and a very satisfying life. Everything I do now revolves around my baby. I have no time for my husband or any personal interests. I miss the challenge and excitement of my job.
I've not talked to anyone about this because I know nothing can be done. I'm not depressed, and I would never hurt my child, but I'm not looking forward to the next 18 years of my life.
Answer:Having a child is truly a life-altering event. There are both sacrifices and rewards, and your life will never be quite the same.
While infants are very demanding, it's also important that you find some time for yourself as well as your husband. Make childcare arrangements so that you and your husband can have a regular "date" at least once a week. Stay in contact with your friends through e-mails or phone calls. This is a period of adjustment in which you're trying to balance the needs of your infant with maintaining your own sense of individuality as a person, professional and married woman.
The most important advice that I can give you is to reach out during these times and speak with close friends and your husband regarding your feelings. You need not confront these very normal and intense issues by yourself.
Question:My 12-year-old son is on Ritalin, and his pediatrician wants to take him off the medicine for the summer. This medication works so well for my son, and I dread the prospect of him being without medicine for three months.
Answer:Talk with your pediatrician regarding your concerns. There are many good reasons why youngsters should be taken off such medications over the summer. If the situation becomes absolutely unacceptable, the medication can always be reinitiated.
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 www.childrensdayton.org/ramey and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/drgregramey
©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.
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