First let me say that I am so sorry you have discovered that your child might be having adult like sexual behavior, for many caregivers this is devastating.  A typical response is to either minimize the behaviors with the belief, “its no big deal, they won’t remember this” or go the other extreme and worry that their child is “destined to grow up to be a sexual pervert”.  The good news is that you are on this website looking for answers and I hope you can keep an open mind as you are looking at information.   Keep in  mind that if you have your own history of sexual trauma or sexual behaviors, this is likely a “blind spot” for you and you will need feedback from an outside source, this may be a friend, older relative, pastor, doctor or school counselor.  There are many good family therapists out there who can help you figure out if this behavior is a serious problem or not.  Here are a few resources to help you right now.

  1.  National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth. The overall goal of the National Center on Sexual Behavior of Youth is to provide information and support through national training to help children and adolescents with problematic sexual behavior.  Best website for caregivers, all information is updated and current with best practices.
  2. “Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviors, What Natural and Healthy”, by Toni Cavanagh Johnson, Ph.D – booklet for $3.00 obtained from
  3. South Eastern CASA, an Australian sexual assault center website has a 44 page booklet called “Age Appropriate Sexual Behaviours in Children and Young People”. Includes chart and research and information to explain PSB in children. Their booklet is found on the NCSBY website:

If you would like to know how to respond to something , here is a handout that can give you some guidance.  As you can tell when reading this, the most important thing is to remain calm and limit your emotional response in front of your child.  Yes, you are freaking out on the inside, and that’s OK, get that out first by whatever method works for you , then talk to your child.

Good Luck!!

click on this link for more info…..Responding to sexual behaviors in children

When there is sexual abuse, either from an adult or another youth, there must be some level of coercion. Most situations of sexual abuse involve coercion, which is emotional ways to force someone to do something, usually tricks and threats.  A young child may consent to sexual behaviors because they are not aware of what sex is, how the private parts are supposed to be special and kept private (they don’t know the privacy rules) or they have been taught that sex is OK for kids by a caregiver.

Sometimes this diagram helps folks understand who is really responsible for sexual abuse because healthy sexuality is 100% consensual for both parties who are old enough to consent.

click on this link to see the diagram in a pdf form which you can copy  coercion arrow

The dynamics of consent in relationships can get really complicated.  True consent only involves people who have the same level of power and control, for example, a teen may fully consent to sexual activity with their teacher, but it’s not true consent because the student doesn’t have the same amount of power in the relationship.   For information on unhealthy dynamics in relationships, visit



Dear Caregiver:

This letter will explain the process of developing a Therapeutic Supervision Plan for your family and your child who has concerning sexual behavior.  You have probably just begun treatment and might still be in shock over the discovery that your child or teen has engaged in sexual behavior.  Until all the dynamics surrounding the sexual behavior is figured out in therapy, it is essential that your child be strictly supervised for the first 3 months.  If your child or teen is showing good judgment and following the rules, changes in the level of supervision will be considered. One thing that will likely never change is that the youth with Problematic Sexual Behavior (PSB) can never ever be alone with the child he/she has abused until that child is 18 or 19.  This is the one rule that is consistent and constant for every client and family when there is sexual behavior between the children, even if they are the same age. I understand that this is likely a hardship on you, the caregivers and I will do all I can to support you.

Therapeutic Supervision Plans are different than the other plans from providers.

If you are involved in Juvenile Court, there are likely other rules your youth is expected to follow.  Child Protective Services also asks families to commit to providing physical safety for the children in the home and they may have asked you to comply with a “Safety Plan”.  Safety Plans may include having door alarms or requiring separate bedrooms.  The “Therapeutic Supervision Plan” is different from a CPS Safety Plan because it is designed to meet different goals. I want to make sure that all the requirements and rules for your family do not conflict with each other.  Sometimes, I can help other agencies or providers understand that a rule might not be therapeutic and needs to be adjusted.  The Therapeutic Supervision Plan is a joint effort between me, the therapist, the youth and all caregivers.

Therapeutic Supervision is NOT for punishment, it’s for safety.

One of the most important things I want you to hear is that a “Therapeutic Supervision Plan” is NOT punishment, although it might FEEL restrictive to all involved.  A very serious thing has happened, sexualized misbehavior, and something has to change in order to prevent this from happening again.  The first thing that needs to change is the level of supervision.    The number one thing that prevents problematic sexual behavior is adequate supervision by adults, primarily because the adult is there to help the youth learn new social skills, manage their feelings and give guidance with problems “in the moment” that they are happening.  I know it might seem as if you are being punished for something your child has done, and it does not feel fair.  I get it, and I am happy to meet with you alone to talk about this issue more.  As caregivers, taking away privileges or giving consequences is the gold standard for handling ordinary misbehaviors.  Severe punishments such as endless grounding, spanking or denial of all privileges will not help this kind of problem.  This type of misbehavior (PSB) is based in emotional difficulties and needs to be solved with therapeutic interventions.  Overly harsh statements, comments or punishments will actually make things worse for your child’s ability to have healthy sexual behavior in the future. If this has already happened, please let me know IN PRIVATE so we can make changes without any loss of “authority” in your family.

Rationales for supervision

Your child or teen is likely to groan and complain about being watched (supervised) and may throw out the “don’t you trust me?” argument.  Please hold firm, you are the adult and therapeutic supervision is not about trust, it is about safety.  For example, every child or teen wears a seatbelt while riding in a car. The seatbelt is there to protect them in case of a car accident, not because you “don’t have trust” and expect a car accident.  Therapeutic supervision will keep your child or teen safe in case of an accidental inappropriate sexual situation.  Supervision of your child is similar to other examples of having new rules to provide safety or prevent future problems such as: TSA procedures at airports, drug testing from employers, or having only one location in your home for the car keys, which you place there every! single! time!

Another rationale for direct supervision is to limit the chances of a false allegation or misunderstanding about the motivation or nature of a behavior.  For example, if another child complains or over exaggerates an interaction, an adult is available to verify the situation and give more context to what really happened.  Most importantly, depending on the circumstances and age of your child or teen, another legal charge or allegation of sexual assault may mean that outpatient treatment is no longer be an option.  It is likely that a youth will be arrested and put into a detention center or sent to a residential treatment facility.  Direct supervision will reduce the chance of a youth having the opportunity or temptation to engage in another unhealthy sexual act. On a more positive note, if everyone is adhering to the Therapeutic Supervision Plan, all family members can relax and be less worried about another incident of sexual abuse; which means there will be more time to enjoy each other and improve relationships.  This is what I refer to as Emotional Safety, which just so happens to be a key factor in making progress in treatment.

Direct supervision means D-I-R-E-C-T supervision

The first thing on the list of expectations for you is that the supervision will be “Eye Line of Sight” or “Within Ear Shot”.  Eye Line of Sight means that you are able to see your child or teen interact with others, by simply lifting your head. There is a direct line of sight between your eyes and their eyes; you will not have to move one step.  Within Ear Shot means that you can hear what the children are talking about, even if you pretend not to notice.  This will help you to know what is happening with the child or teen and then you can intervene to: teach social skills, help with sharing or conflict resolution, or stop sexualized talk or behavior.  If you must leave the room, to answer the phone or use the restroom, please make arrangements so the youth with PSB is not left alone with another child.  I will help you accomplish this with grace and skill so the interaction seems natural and is not noticeable to others.  The goal is to provide safety without increasing the level of shame for the child with PSB.

This level of supervision might seem extreme, but unfortunately, not maintaining this level will put your child or others at risk.  Other children I have known have tried to touch each other sexually while riding the back seat of a car or under the table a restaurant, so I have learned that we cannot be TOO careful.  This highest level of supervision will not last longer than what is absolutely necessary.  However, if this level of supervision is really too much for you, I understand.  But that might mean your child or teen will have to live somewhere else, where there are no other children.

 Therapeutic Supervision is always evolving based on needs.

While we do all we can to make the level of supervision appropriate for your child or teen’s problem solving skills and maturity level, there is almost always the need to “tweak” the plan as treatment continues. There are often situations that require the type of supervision to be increased or decreased, which will be discussed during a family therapy session.  Any school aged child is expected to be generally compliant with the plan (especially if they are involved in creating it) and caregivers are expected to implement the plan 99.5% of the time. Although this is the goal, let’s face it, “life happens” and occasionally the supervision plan is not or cannot be followed by you, the caregiver.  Please don’t be fearful or embarrassed to tell me about a glitch in the supervision or if the plan is not practical, it does not mean your child will be removed.  Plus, if we can identify possible solutions during a family session, it would be a good opportunity to role model how to admit mistakes and use negotiation skills to prevent issues in the future. My goal is to modify the plan based on what you and your child and your family needs, which is probably changing day to day.   Lastly, your child is not likely to comply with all the rules of our plan 100% of the time either, so please respond to any non-compliance in a calm manner.  We can talk about what kind of consequence, if any, should be given to your child if they break a rule.  Most likely, something needs to be changed, and it takes some trial and error to figure it all out, so don’t panic if your child is not able to comply with the plan, there may be something else going on.

 Find the right person to supervise in a therapeutic way.

Sometimes it is necessary to have other adults supervise your child or teen with problematic sexual behavior.  We recommend that this be an adult who has basic knowledge of your child’s problem and agrees to comply with the level of supervision needed with compassion.  Many behaviors that lead to problems seem innocent on the surface and would not raise a red flag to the average person.   Older siblings or young adults may not be suited for this type of supervision and should be discussed on a case by case basis.  Younger siblings should never be put in the role of supervising a youth with PSB; this alters the family dynamic and creates an unhealthy balance among siblings that could facilitate other types of problems.  It may or may not be helpful to inform school personnel of your child’s problematic sexual behavior. If the school requests a “school safety plan”, please discuss this with me as this document will likely remain in your child’s permanent school record and sometimes I can help the school manage this is a different way.

Therapeutic Supervision is intended to improve other relevant areas of concern.

We hope and expect families to do more than just intensely supervise their child or teen.  Your child probably has at least 6 to 10 factors that have contributed to their problem with sexuality.  These issues also need to be addressed and many families implement a host of “New Rules” for their family.  For example, you may find it helpful to enforce rules such as modesty and monitoring of technology for every child in the family, not just the youth with PSB. There are also “growth skills”, which allow your child to “grow” into a healthy adult; for example, developing healthy pro-social friendships, participating in school events or improving family relationships. In these cases, it maybe necessary to change the therapy schedule or find alternatives to consequences in order for the growth skills to continue.  Not all of the “New Rules” will be listed on the Therapeutic Supervision Plan, so be sure you talk with me about which rules are the most critical for your child’s situation.

Other documents on my website, that will help in knowing which therapeutic issues to focus on are:

  1. New Rules after Problematic Sexual Behavior(PSB)
  2. Sexual Respect for Young Children under 10
  3. Vulnerability Factors for Youth with PSB
  4. Sexual Boundaries in the Foster or Adoptive home
  5. Supervising Social Interactions
  6. 11 Rules about Private Parts that May Prevent Sexual Abuse

One step at a time.

For the first draft of your Therapeutic Supervision Plan, we will focus on sexual respect and direct, line of sight supervision, that’s it.  We will include common problem areas relevant to all kids with PSB plus individualized concerns based on the information presented at your intake appointment.  In 3 months, we will update the plan, review areas of concern, areas of strength and level of supervision needed.  There is so much information to remember at the beginning of treatment, don’t be afraid to ask for a written copy of anything I recommend. To be honest, I write up most of my therapeutic interventions anyway so I don’t forget either.   You are welcome to go to my website and download anything that may be helpful to you.  I’ll  keep a copy of the Therapeutic Supervision Plan in my file in case you need another copy.  Remember, for now, focus on sexual respect and line of sight supervision while we are learning the privacy rules and I’m here to help you with every step.


Best Regards,

Sheryl Overby, MS NCC LIMHP

Child and Family Therapist


Moral development is a tricky thing, sometimes kids seem really empathetic and want to help others, and sometimes they are so selfish you wonder if they are human. Most moral and ethical decisions are based on a person’s conscience, which grows and develops over time. For some people, it doesn’t really develop until adulthood, and their brain is fully functional. For others, it is deeply influenced by life’s circumstances. I do not know exactly how it changes, but I do know that caregivers do not have complete control over it.

Do not give up hope that a child can eventually make ethical and moral choices, while at the same time, be practical in where they are at now. What motivates them to make choices now? What helps them make a decision? See the graphic below, which describes my version of the progression of moral development.

***not based on research, just my observation of human behavior



Each family and situation is unique and The Privacy Rules can be tailored to suit your individual needs.  Please consider the development, emotional maturity and past behavior of the child.   I recommend that the child or family make their own poster by choosing which cards to use and what the title should be.  Then they can use their own creativity to decorate it and post it in the home.  If you would rather just download the list, then that is fine too.   Please read the post on this site called “The 9 Rules about Private Parts that may Prevent Sexual Abuse” for more information on how to explain the privacy rules to children. 

Hover your mouse over the titles and click on them to be linked to a PDF that you can print out and use.

The basic Privacy Rules for anyone who will grow up someday, own a mobile device or know how to use google images.  privacy rules cards

The Privacy Rules for pre-teens or anyone who has at least one underarm hair, or thinks the pictures on the other cards are way too dumb for them.  The youth can make their own title and decorate the numbers and keep the list safely hidden where no peer can find it….which is fine, as long as they follow the rules.   privacy rules no clipart

Credit for knowing about privacy rules goes to the lovely folks at Oklahoma University and NCSBY.


The Bridge of Reparation was a concept I learned from Joann Schladale, MS LMFT to help youth get over their shame.  Some of the youth that I have worked with have almost given themselves PTSD from the shame of their own behavior.  They are not traumatized in the same way as someone who is physically or sexually hurt, but some youth have flashbacks, triggers, bothersome physical symptoms, cognitive distortions, avoidance of the issue and behavioral problems.

The bridge contains three equally essential parts

  • Forgiveness of self
  • Acceptance of wrongdoing, taking responsibility for the problematic sexual behavior
  • Reparation for their mistake in some way.

One last thing, having appropriate amounts of guilt for the wrong doing is healthy and necessary for moral development,  so don’t forget to talk about the difference between shame and guilt.

All children seek the verbal or non-verbal feedback from the adults in their life to understand themselves.  A caregiver can provide encouragement, hope and a vision of a positive future for youth with Problematic Sexual Behavior.  I believe that putting these thoughts in writing makes it more sincere to the child and enables the youth the opportunity to re-read the information whenever needed.  Please use your own language and make the letter as authentic as possible.  Thanks in advance for your time and effort.

Here are five ideas about what to include in a letter:

1. Praise your child for the changes they have made with concrete examples; things you have noticed.  Such as:

  • Attending therapy
  • Admitting to the problem
  • Accepting their consequences
  • Doing better at school or completing chores
  • Putting forth effort, reading this letter for example

2. Briefly tell your child how you have accepted that they have made a mistake with their sexual behavior AND you believe they are capable to fix their wrong doing or learn from this event. (see handout of “What Caregivers Can Say” if you are stuck.


3. Encourage and support your child with physical and emotional needs.  Please give one or two concrete examples of how you will be supportive.  Perhaps:

  • Attend family sessions and pay for appropriate therapy without complaining
  • Have empathy for them, try to understand their thoughts and feelings, even if they haven’t completed treatment yet or you don’t “get it”.
  • Show respect by listening to them, or leaving them alone, etc. etc.
  • Change things in the home environment to encourage sexual respect and reduce objectification

4. You will guide your child to make good choices and do well in the future, such as:

  • Stay committed to treatment or whatever else is needed in the future
  • Helping your child to work out more issues in therapy
  • Maintain the safety plan or supervision so they will have an opportunity to succeed, even though they don’t like it
  • Provide more opportunities to do well in school or extra curricular activities
  • Maintain hope for positive outcomes in the future “because you have so much potential”

5. Model taking responsibility  if you have made a mistake or have a regret for your own behavior.  Make sure you do not burden your child with your own problems or minimize their accountability for their own behavior.  Show them that there is hope of being a better person in the future. Possible examples are: 

  • Under-reacting after disclosure of the problematic behavior such as not providing supervision or getting treatment right away
  • Not providing appropriate sex education when it was needed in the past
  • Not providing your child with treatment if it was needed in the past
  • Making things worse by over reacting; thinking this was the end of the world (catastrophizing) or predicting failure
  • Anything that has made this process, including court or treatment, longer or more complicated.




After a child has been sexually abused, they can never regain their innocence.  This is one of the main reasons caregivers grieve for their children.  This graph is meant to help others understand the difference between ideal development of a child and the detour that children are forced to take when they are abused. Hopefully, caregivers will have a better understanding of how they can help the child compensate.  Please be aware that this graph is not based on clinical studies or research, but the combined clinical experience of Sheryl Overby and Vickie Peyton equaling 65+ years.  The example illustrated in the chart below is of a child who was sexually abused at approximately 8 years old.  We believe that a child will have a better chance of returning close to an “ideal development” of their sexual experiences if they receive treatment after their sexual abuse.


The ages and stages of sexual development are based on information from American Academy of Pediatrics 2009.

There is not a single risk factor that is strong enough to cause a young person to have sexualized behaviors (PSB) with another child. Usually, there are at least 6 or 7 factors involved. To get a full assessment of a child’s overall functioning, I would recommend meeting with a Psychologist who specializes in this area. The most helpful way to use this list is to identify areas of concern to prevent inappropriate behaviors in the future. If you have questions, or want more information, please contact me at Woodhaven Counseling Associates in Omaha, NE or


per Wm. Freidrich Ph.D. Book: Children with Sexual Behavior Problems; Family Based Attachment-Focused Therapy
 Exposure to domestic violence or aggressiveness between parents or other adults in home
 Youth exposed to elicit sexual activity or images or information (pornography)
 Modeling of Coercion by adults: authoritarian parenting style, spanking, physical aggression, verbal threats
 Parental Stress and adversity: divorce, death, legal problems, job loss, drug/alcohol use, depression
 Overly permissive sexual attitudes in home
 Youth has poor social skills
 Youth has poor coping skills
 Nudity or lack of modesty in home
 Youth has seen a lot of violence in peers and /or community
 Poor supervision when youth is with other kids
 Youth has poor impulse control; acts w/out thinking
 Developmental delays compared to other children
 Lack of guidance, child is left on their own too much
 Physical abuse or physical harm to the youth
 Sexual abuse history; hands off or hands on offenses


 Emotional abuse of children in family: ignored, bullied, threatened, verbal abuse
 Overly permissive parenting in general
 Repressive or punitive sexual attitudes in family
 Not providing any explanation for age appropriate sexuality
 Chaotic home life; no schedule, rules change often
 Poor family boundaries; too tight or too loose
 Parents not responsible for family’s wellbeing
 Poor family communication
 General family dynamics are extreme
 Low income or poverty; lack of shelter or food
 Intense rivalry between siblings, sometimes unknowingly fostered by parents
 Adults confused about own sexuality or victims of childhood sexual abuse
 Children rely on each other to be soothed, rather than adults
 Parents have had extra marital affairs
 Children disliked or treated differently by parents for reasons not related to the child
 Caregivers unaware of current trends of sexuality on internet/social media


 Social alienation and isolation
 Bullied by peers, feels inferior in peer group
 Lack of same age peer friendships
 Aggressive or threatening to others
 Coercion from peers re: sexuality
 Uses sexuality to form friendships
 Uses sexuality to “look cool” with peers


 Alcohol or drug or pill abuse by the youth
 Uses sexuality to feel strong or powerful
 Uses sexuality to feel affection & love
 Uses sexuality to meet other emotional needs
 Unable to manage sexual arousal appropriately
 Inability to delay gratification
 Overwhelmed by depression or anxiety
 Extreme mood swings or emotional meltdowns
 Can’t think of non-sexual solutions to problems
 Breaking rules at home, school or community
 Has excuses for any wrong behavior
 Feels so special that he/she doesn’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else
 Inability to think for self or make own decisions
 Low self esteem, feels unworthy of a happy life
 Sexual interest in young children
 Is generally coercive in relationships with others
 Criminal history of other types of offenses
 Poor grades in school, lack of interest in school
 Preoccupied with sex and sexuality


 Unable to understand information during sex education from school or parents
 Emotionally immature
 Too young to understand sexuality
 Undeveloped conscience or morals
 Pre-mature puberty, biological and growth factors


 Presence of vulnerable people that could be harmed or tricked into keeping secrets
 Normal sexual outlets for age are limited or not allowed
 Has powerful or controlling role with possible victim (ex: babysitter, older sibling)
 Too much time with TV and video games


 No monitoring of internet use by caregivers (software filters don’t count)
 Crowded living conditions (no private bedrooms)
 Youth has chronic stressors in personal life
 Child observed adult sexual behavior without explanation or ability to understand
 Exposed to traumatic or scary events

What Caregivers Can Say

(to speed up the treatment process for problematic sexual behavior)

By Sheryl Overby, MS NCC LIMHP Woodhaven Counseling 402-592-0328

When children or teens start treatment for having problems with their sexual behavior,

it can be really scary and confusing.

If they have feel supported by their caregivers and have permission to be open,

they are more likely to get through treatment faster  and have a better chance of a successful life.

Here are some examples what other caregivers have said;

pick one or two that fits for you.

  1. I’m so glad you told me now, I want to help you and I’m really sad that you had to go through all of this alone.

  2. This is a really big problem, and I don’t know what to do, but I will find someone who knows how to help us

  3. I will support you as you go through the process of getting healthy ideas about sex.

  4. I imagine it would be really hard to tell me the truth about your touching problem, that is OK, I am not sure I am ready to hear about it right now.  So, we can both get help to solve this problem.

  5. I will do whatever it takes to learn how to help you so you don’t have this problem again.

  6. It’s Ok if you haven’t told me everything, remember, if your story changes later, and you are able to tell more details, you will be so brave and strong.

  7. I’m sure that there are lots of reasons why this happened; we will figure all of that out later.  But for now, remember you are the one who has the problem with sexual behavior and that has to get fixed.

  8. I know you might not have told me everything about your sexual behavior, either way;  I am committed to helping you, no matter what else comes out.

  9. Even if you think you had a really good reason to do this; you were wrong, breaking a sexual behavior rule causes harm, it is bad for the other person and it is bad for you.

  10. It is OK to resist admitting to everything now about what has happened; but you still have to talk to these people that can help you.

  11. Even if the problem behavior with _____ didn’t happen exactly the way he/she says it did, we still need to be here in treatment to talk about things.

  12. I want you to be honest with me, even if it makes me sad/mad/upset, etc., we will work through it all together.

  13. No matter how bad it is – it can be fixed.

  14. You still deserve to have privacy with your thoughts, but there are some things that you need to share so we (your therapist and I) can help you.  After you tell your therapist EVERYTHING about the sexual behavior, the two of you can decide which parts I need to know about.

  15. It will be OK if you tell me that there is more to the story than we first thought.  When you realize you are safe, you can say it out loud. I might be upset, but I will still love you and I promise to try to help you.

  16. Just because you did something wrong, like having illegal sexual behavior, it doesn’t mean all the good things about you are not true.

  17. Just because you have lots of good qualities about you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make a mistake, or that the harmful sexual behavior is not true.

  18. I am not proud of the mistake you made, but I believe you have the ability to work hard and fix your mistake, and that starts by talking to your therapist about whatever happened.  You have already started the process by walking into the building today.

  19. If I am to responsible for contributing to this problem in any way, I want to figure out if there was anything I should have done differently  and change things in our family.

The Link Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Offending

Sheryl Overby MS LIMHP


It’s really difficult to know if you should be worried about your child after they have been sexually abused in some way. It’s important not to over react, or under react. You should be prepared to have issues with sexuality in some fashion as the child grows into a teen, starts dating and eventually has their own children. But, THERE IS NO PROOF THAT BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED WILL LEAD TO THAT PERSON BEING A SEXUAL ABUSER either as child, teen or adult. Here are some statistics that might help.

  • Some children do react to their sexual abuse by doing sexual things to other children.  The legal term for this is child on child sexual assault.  Therapists call this sexually reactive. These kids can be helped by counseling and have a reduced risk that they will sexually abuse again in the future.
  • Physical abuse of the child or domestic violence in the home is just as traumatic for the child as a history of sexual abuse. All of these factors maybe related (not the only cause) to children who have problematic sexual behavior (PSB).
  • Most kids who have been sexually abused have also had other types of abuse or difficult home life, so it is very difficult to find out exactly what is causing their problems.
  • 13 different studies that involved 1353 children, who were sexually abused, 35% of preschool aged children had sexual behavior problems, and 11% of school age kids had sexual behavior problems.
  • Some studies regarding adult sex offenders indicate that 60 to 70% of them were sexually abused as children.  However, other studies which included polygraph testing of their sexual abuse history found that approximately 20 to 30 % of adult sex offenders were sexually abused as children.
  • Most experts agree that adult sex offenders commonly have difficult childhoods, which included a combination of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
  • 5 to 10 % of adolescents with sexual behavior problems have true sexual deviancy, so they will have problems with these issues for a very long time.



Sheryl Overby, MS LIMHP

There are 3 main types of ways to help kids with their social interactions with peers. Pre-teaching, coaching in the moment and giving feedback. All social interactions between children improve based on trial and error, and some kids need extra help from adults to understand their peers’ responses and to know how to change their behavior to make the interaction more pleasant.


Identify House Rules

  • House rules, or rules for the activity should be decided between the caregivers and discussed in advance.
  • These rules maybe different than those of siblings, and should be based on the needs of the child. Children who demonstrate good judgment will have different rules than children who have shown to have difficulty making good decisions.
  • All privacy rules are expected to be followed by all children in the home and all children who interact with your child.
  • Physical boundaries about where the children are allowed to go should also be determined ahead of time and should be stated as a house rule.
  • Rules about the use of food and drinks should also be decided ahead of time.

Identify an agenda for the peer interaction

  • Have an idea if the peer will be involved in snack or dinner time, the expectations for arrival and pick up, and their planned activities.
  • Explain to your child what the expectations are for supervision (line of sight/hearing?) and how they should respond if the friend wants to do something that is against the supervision rules.
  • Sometimes, kids need help to decide what to do with unplanned time, and a back up plan or activity is helpful if the original activity does not go well or the children change their mind and don’t want to do it anymore. Examples are to play a board game, play outside (depending on their need for supervision), do a craft activity or watching a movie.
  • The parent needs to be available for coaching during all peer interactions and should be available as needed.

Identify an escape plan

  • Have an idea of how you will handle things if the peer interaction is not going well for whatever reason and how the activity will end.
  • You may need a signal your child can give you if he/she wants the friend to go home or have an excuse prepared that won’t hurt the friend’s feelings.
  • Have a plan on how the friend can go home early if needed and who will provide transportation.
  • Sometimes the phrase “cooperation/patience/ability to share is all used up” can explain the problem if the friends are arguing without placing blame on either child.


Prepare for Caregiver Intervention

  • Depending on your child’s supervision plan, you will need to provide visual and/or
    auditory supervision with all peers.
    If your child has a sexual behavior problem, they have already shown that they have a problem with good judgment. You will also need to know what they do well with peers and what areas need improvement so you can know how to proceed in the future.
  • Sometimes, a simple statement can help the peer interaction proceed more smoothly.
  • Examples are to: label/notice positive behavior, suggestion to change activities, Suggest to your child in private to use the STOP or Turtle steps or distract both children with a snack.
  • Be careful not to “shame” either child in front of their friend as this may backfire and create long term problems in your relationship and embarrass the child.
  • If you need to provide individual feedback to your child, do so in private. Praise may or may not be provided in private, depending on the preferences of your child.


Use Natural and Logical Consequences

  • If the interaction goes well, provide more opportunities and go out of your way to provide transportation so your child can have positive peer time.
  • If the interaction does not go well, explain to your child the problem and the need for more supervision or the need to reduce peer time in frequency or length until the child has better skills.
  • DO NOT completely stop all peer interactions; ask your therapist for help in getting creative to make opportunities for positive peer interactions.
  • These interpersonal skills will be needed the rest of your child’s life and it is part of the endless, unrewarded job of parenting to help your child learn this skill. Some children do not automatically have this skill and it will take lots of time and practice to learn it.

 Do all you can to make the feedback session positive

  • Get your child’s permission first, especially for girls. Always ask your child if they are willing to talk about the peer interaction and listen to feedback.
  • If they say no, then WAIT until they are ready. This issue can always wait until a positive conversation is possible.
  • Make sure both you and your child are in the mood (not hungry or tired) to provide and accept feedback.
  • Always sandwich negative feedback between praise for something positive, even something simple as being willing to listen and end feedback session with praise or hope that things will go better in the future


  • Allow “growth privileges”!! Participation in team sports, clubs at school or attendance of birthday parties are all good chances for your child to have interactions with friends while being supervised in a group setting.
  • Use good judgment if you take away these opportunities as a punishment, it may backfire and cause more problems in the long run. Your child needs opportunities to practice and learn to share, respect authority and cooperate with others.
  • Remember, coaches and other adults may be able to teach your child skills that you will receive benefits from in the future.
  • Coaches are often willing to have child “run extra laps” or have other consequences while remaining on the team or do other things to help motivate your child to improve their grades or behavior. Please talk to your child’s coach or adult mentor before making them quit the activity.
  • If your child has had problematic sexual behavior (PSB) or has committed a child on child sexual assault, please read other articles on this website for more information or go to

If you are considering getting treatment for a child with Problematic Sexual Behavior (PSB), these are some of the things I think all caregivers  should know.

1. You are not alone, you are not the cause.

Realizing that your child has a sexual behavior problem can be one of the most  difficult things a parent can face. Sibling sexual abuse occurs 5 times more often  than adult/child incest.  Sadly, this puts a parent in the almost unbearable situation of trying to meet the needs of both children.  There are many factors related to the cause of childhood sexual behaviors; and caregivers may have some degree of responsibility with some of those factors. But,  yourchild is also responsible for his/her behavior.  Figuring it all out is tough, attending a class with others in your situation may be very helpful.

2. Your child depends on you to face the truth.

I’m guessing a part of you wants to avoid this whole subject.  There mayalso be a part of you that is very concerned.  The first step is to get a thorough evaluation by a professional.  Some behaviors maybe considered natural and healthy, but others are coercive or abusive.  Perhaps there has been exposureto unhealthy sexuality.  Most families need a neutral party, outside of the family, to help investigate the complex and embarrassing subject of sexual behavior in children.  Even if it never happens again, without some type of intervention, your child may suffer long term emotional consequences.  It’s hard, but you CAN handle the truth.

3.Talking about sexuality with a child is awkward.

Some caregivers get very nervous knowing that their child will be in treatment talking about sexual things.  Talk to your child’s therapist.  You can work out a plan in which your family’s values can still be implemented in the area of sexuality, even if your child has sexual behavior problems.  However, you must be willing to talk to your child in a healthy way that does not create more feelings of shame for past behavior.  The best place to start is to get a good book for sex education.   Research has shown that talking about healthy sexuality and sexual respect actually REDUCES the chance of sexual behavior problems in the future

4. A good therapist is hard to find.

 There are hundreds of therapists and just as many theories about the best way to provide treatment. Certainly, a key component is finding someone you respect and feel comfortable with.  A good clue that a therapist has NOT had recent training will be if they use old terminology such as: adolescent sex offender, perpetrator/perp, or molester.   More information about choosing a good therapist can also be found on the website for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network

5. Treatment works better if the caregivers are involved.

Research has shown that the number one thing that helps kids succeed in treatment is their caregivers’ involvement.  Youth with caregiver support are more likely to admit their mistake plus learn new behaviors and skills faster. Caregivers should partner with the therapist to help develop treatment strategies and participate in sessions.  Other expectations of parents include: reading materials, talking about issues at home, implementing safety plans, changing the home environment if needed and providing the recommended amount of supervision.

6. It takes a long time to figure out the whole story.

It is very difficult to figure out the whole story; one must consider individual, family antime photod environmental factors.  Some children have so much shame from their behavior, that it delays their progress.  My experience has been that IF there are deeply hidden secrets, it takes months before they come out.  A child must first feel emotionally and physically safe in therapy AND at home.  Consequently, the treatment process can be long, usually 6 to 9 monthsof weekly sessions, and you will probably feel like quitting before treatment is over.  The benefit of sticking with it is knowing that you have done all you can to help your child have sexual respect and healthy sexuality during adolescence and adulthood.

7. The story usually gets complicated and messy.

There is almost always more than one reason why a child has acted out sexually.  Some children act out sexually as a result of being abused; usually there are other elements.   Your therapist will help identify factors that made your child vulnerable to having inappropriate sexual behaviors and problem solve ways to help. There are lots of things caregivers can do. Sexual behavior in children (before puberty) is different than in teens or adults due to the lack of hormones, i.e. there is no hormonal based “sex drive”.  However, children can be VERY compelled to initiate or participate in adult like sexual behaviors; it’s complicated.

8.  It takes more than just saying you are sorry.

Your child will need an individualized treatment plan after the evaluation.  Plus, if a child has been a victim of sexual abuse, those issues are also a part of therapy. All kids need to take responsibility for their problem behavior,  but I believe more is needed to provide complete healing.  Repairing their mistake by intentionally doing something positive reduces unhealthy shame for the behavior.  It takes some creativity and courage, but effective reparation can be very powerful. Other components of successful treatment include:  sex education, body ownership skills, following the privacy rules, improving peer relationships and self control strategies.


9. Balanced supervision is your new best friend.

Remember to stay balanced with supervision of your child.  First, please don’t pretend that this problem with sexual behavior never existed; your child is very likely to need some sort of supervision for a while, maybe even a long time.  Second, try not to be paranoid that your child is destined to do this again, and thus, never allow participation in age appropriate activities. Third, if your child does have another incident, be prepared ; it is difficult to change a behavior that is so physically rewarding.  Your therapist can help you know how to react to your child if you find them in another unhealthy sexual situation.

 10.  The story is still unfinished; there is hope for the future.

Just because your child has problems with sexual behavior or has had an arrest for child on child sexual assault now, does not mean they will have problems as an older teen or adult.  Research has shown that the earlier a child gets treatment, the better.  Statistically, a 7 yr. old child will have a 4-5 % chance and a 15 year old child will have a 9-13% chance of having sexual behavior problems in the future.  Some families have been traumatized for generations.  However, with lots of hard work, even families impacted by sibling incest can reunify and be grateful for their “new kind of normal”.  Restoring the family relationships in a healthy way will bless your children and the generations to come.



SHERYL OVERBY  MS  LIMHP  402-592-0328



Maximizing Sexual Respect  for Children under 10

Sheryl Overby  MS  NCC  LIMHP

 If everyone in the world has sexual respect, then there would be no sexual abuse.  One of the best ways to help kids have healthy ideas about sexuality is to teach sexual respect.  The world and its “pornified culture” will have a huge impact, sure, but do all you can to minimize that impact by implementing ideas of sexual respect.

Here are my best tips…….

  • Clothing Choices:  It is a good idea for ALL family members to be conscious of what they wear outside of the bedroom. Seeing others in their underwear or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child.  Reframe desire for clothing choices from sexual “hotness” to appropriateness for the event or comfort
  •  Language:  Suggestive, sexualized, objectifying or obscene language is not allowed from anyone.  Reframe focus of compliments from attractiveness to character strengths.
  • Objectification:  The concept that people are treated like objects, most typically a sexual object.  Do all you can to avoid this from a very early age.  The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.  But, it is more than sexual objects, so teachers are more than just teachers, waiters are more than just servers, husbands are more than a paycheck, etc.
  • Sexually explicit materials such as magazines, videos, catalogs, or TV programs should be completely eliminated from the household.  Don’t keep TV and Video game systems in your child’s room that have adult swim or internet access that they can use in the middle of the night.
  • Computer time should be monitored to make sure the youth is not “accidently” exposed to sexualized images.  Remember, the youth has more time, energy and motivation to break through the parental controls software than the parent has to maintain it.  This includes ALL MOBILE DEVICES and gaming devices.
  • Explain what you are doing  Kids want to know why.  Depending on their age, you can give varying degrees of explanations about why you are putting filters on the internet, or not allowing TVs in their room, etc.  Most of them will appreciate your involvement.   Go to for videos you can show your kids about how sex is used for marketing and advertising.
  • Don’t use porn Sexual respect means ADULTS have sexual activity in a RELATIONSHIP with a REAL LIVE PERSON, not an image on the computer screen, which may or may not be real.  Make sure the adults in the child’s life model this message in their own behavior
  • Sex Education: All children need basic information about how they develop sexually.  They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.  Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the child helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to talk about sexual behavior.  All children (any age) should have an age appropriate explanation for the sexual behavior that has been done to them if they have been abused by an older teen or adult.
  • Encourage them to Say NO Children need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this. A youth should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable. If your child has been sexually abused, this is especially important that they can say NO in any type of situation they do not like.  This may include situations of feeling intimidated or taken advantage of.
  • Mutual Respect Among Siblings Sometimes intimidation is a part of a problematic sexual behavior.  This needs to be turned into mutual respect.  Encourage equality among siblings by giving younger children equal power when deciding family activities.  Teach the appropriate use of drawing straws, taking turns and rotating responsibilities.


  • Privacy for Children: Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior. Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.  I am repeated this for a reason, Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.  Think about it.  Children who have been abused or who have sexually harmed another person deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history


  • Secrets:  Help the child understand the difference between secrecy, surprises and privacy; this is a tricky thing for all of us, frankly. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.  In general, it’s always OK to ask mom and dad for help to figure this one out.  Secrets are usually discouraged, privacy is usually encouraged and surprises are usually a lot of fun, except if there is a spider in bathtub.


  • Privacy for Adults: Don’t forget that adults need privacy too, especially if engaged in sexual activity.  Lock the bedroom door always and make sure children cannot hear sexually related noises.  This is extremely overwhelming and arousing for a youth who may not have a healthy understanding of sexuality.
  •  Follow the 9 Rules:  See Handout on the 9 Rules that May Prevent Sexual Abuse
  • Practice Critical Thinking: Ask your child why they think the strawberry commercial pretends to be sexual or why a restaurant wants their waitresses to look a certain way.  Ask your child why they think a swimsuit top for a 2nd grader would have padding or ask about the current jokes kids tell at school.  The goal is to help your child think; send the message that they have a choice about their sexual behavior, their sexual thoughts and their sexual gender issues.  Things they will have a long time to figure out if they wait until they are grown up to share their bodies with someone.
  • BE PEPARED:  Now that your child knows they can talk to you, knows they have a choice, be prepared to have lots more discussions with them about their sexual choices and the sexual messages in society when they are teenagers. That’s a whole ‘nother paper and much more complicated, so come find me when they are about 11 or 12, I’ll have something on




Stop  –  means no

Turning away  –  means no

I don’t want to  –  means no

Shoving you away  –  means no

Leave me alone  –  means no

Not touching you   –  means no

I’m not ready  –  means no

Playing dead / not moving  –  means no


I don’t feel like it   – means no

Drunk or drugged  –  means no

Get away from me  –   means no

Screaming  –   means no

Don’t   –  means no

Crying  –  means no


Yes means one thing only:   FREELY GIVEN CONSENT, where BOTH person’s needs, wants and desires are the foundation for the interaction.


Encouraging Healthy Sexual Boundaries In the Foster Home


Woodhaven Counseling Associates  402-592-0328


All humans have to learn boundaries, either by modeling or teaching in early childhood; it simply is not something hardwired into the brain.  It would be nice if all the youth who come to your home had good boundaries, but chances are, you will have some work to do.    Since part of the definition of healthy sexuality is that it happens in private, most children and teens simply do not know that there is anything other than what they have seen in their history or via our current American sexualized culture.  Families are the perfect place to offer an alternative and healthy view of sexuality.  Here are my best tips on how to help the kids in your home.

#1 Create an Atmosphere of Sexual Respect

Sexual Respect

  1. Do not allow suggestive or obscene language from anyone of any age. This includes sexual innuendos and jokes that creates the message that sex is an everyday thing.
  2. Do all you can to avoid objectification, which is seeing a person as an object, most typically a sexual object.
  3. Sexually explicit materials such photos, videos, catalogs, music, computer games or TV programs should be completely eliminated from the household, and the garage, and underneath the seat in your truck.
  4. Reinforce healthy messages like: “every person, young and old, deserves to have their body respected and sex is a great and wonderful thing for adults, when they think and think about when to share their bodies” or “sex can be a special way to connect to another person, but now is not the time for you”.
  5. It is difficult to traverse the wide gap between clothing fashion trends and sexual respect, but you gotta try. It is important for both girls and boys to know a) That even if a girl wears something sexually provocative, it does not give anyone the right to abuse her AND b) That boys (especially age 11-14) have erections at seeing even the slightest bit of cleavage and the girls can help them out by not wearing sexually provocative clothing AND c) That even if something is in style, it is not allowed if it contributes to the objectification of that person, male or female.

Sex Education

  1. All children need basic information about how they develop sexually. Make sure they have an age appropriate book that they can keep in their room and look at any time to answer their questions about sex.
  2. They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex, but you will have to bring up the subject often so they know it is OK to talk about it. Sometimes, you will be the one doing all the talking.
  3. Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the youth helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to talk about sexual activity or sexual abuse.

Saying NO

  1. Youth need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this with peers, siblings and adults.
  2. A youth should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable.
  3. For teenagers, both young women and young men need to know that NO MEANS NO.
  4. Remind everyone that all sexual activity is consented by both parties every single time, even between a couple who has been together for years and years. Both parties have the freedom to say yes, and both parties have the freedom to say no.


#2 New Rules to Prevent Future Problems

Being Alone With One Other Person

  1. If your youth has problematic sexual behaviors or if they behave seductively or aggressively, they need direct supervision! This means they are never alone with another child and sometimes this includes older children and other adults.
  2. You may need to be able to both SEE and HEAR everything your youth does and says when they are with others. This eliminates any anxiety when confused or ambivalent about the intent of a behavior.
  3. Consult a therapist to decide the supervision needs of a child with a history of sexual abuse. Some youth need very little, others need very firm limits and structure.
  4. The goal of supervision is to have “in the moment coaching” for problem solving, social skills and to help them manage feelings.
  5. Siblings are not allowed to provide supervision; this alters the family dynamic and creates an unhealthy balance among siblings that could facilitate additional problems.
  6. Remember, children do not need “foreplay” in order to have a desire for sexual behavior, it only takes a child about 12 seconds to invade another child’s boundary or body.


  1. All children need NON SEXUAL touch. If a youth’s only form of affection in the past has been via sexuality, they will need to learn how to show and receive affection in non-sexual ways again and again, and again.
  2. Do not be afraid to touch your child or teen, however, it is advised that the touching be interruptible or observable. Please consult with the youth’s therapist to identify what types of touch will be the most helpful.
  3. Help your youth learn the appropriate use of all different types of healthy touch. They include: affection, brotherly love, comfort, friendship, encouragement, comradery, greetings, praise, nurturing and playfulness.
  4. Be cautious about wrestling and tickling, as common as these behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones and can put a younger child in a weak or humiliating position.
  5. Do not allow other children to sit on the lap of a youth with sexualized behavior.
  6. Adults in the home should also show NON SEXUAL affection towards each other in front of the children (hugging, holding hands, light kissing). They can learn that affection is a part of sexual activity, but not always, and there is a way for a couple to show affection in public that is NON SEXUAL.


  1. Everyone has a right to privacy. All the youth in your home should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior. Modesty is the best policy.
  2. Young people also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.
  3. Children and teens who have been abused or who have sexually harmed another person deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history.
  4. Don’t forget that adults need privacy too, especially if engaged in sexual activity. Lock the bedroom door always and make sure children cannot hear sexually related noises.  This is extremely overwhelming and arousing for a youth who may not have a healthy understanding of sexuality.
  5. In general, it is recommended that youth who are already confused about sexuality have separate bedrooms and bathroom time. Every child needs a place and time when they can be alone and have personal time.
  6. If a youth is scared at night, work out a plan to help them feel safe without sleeping in bed with another person.
  7. Post and enforce the list of PRIVACY RULES for children and older youth; see handout attached.


#3 Interrupt Patterns of Unhealthy Sexual Behavior

Manage Arousal

  1. Help children and teens differentiate between feelings and behaviors. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings.  However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings he or she has.
  2. Remember girls gets just as aroused as boys, it’s just not visible. Both boys and girls need to understand what is happening in their bodies and to know how they should react.
  3. Some children and teens need very specific instructions on how to distract themselves when aroused and how to decide when it’s OK or not OK to touch themselves or masturbate.
  4. Youth who have been sexually abused may have trauma related flashbacks associated with arousal. It is very important to change this pattern if they are to have a healthy sex life with a partner as an adult.  Please seek the assistance of a therapist if you think this is happening.
  5. If a child (before puberty) is touching their own private parts, it is for very different reasons than a teen or adult due to the lack of hormones and sex drive. I prefer the term “self touch” rather than “masturbation”.
  6. Young children really benefit from having relaxing activities or physical activities that will change the body’s arousal pattern. Give them a list of things that they can do without permission.
  7. Both children and teens need to know the dos and don’ts regarding touching themselves, proper hygiene and how to properly care for the private parts of their bodies.
  8. Helping your child with arousal will go along way to prevent child on child sexual assault or problematic sexual beheavior (psb).


Understand that sexuality fills an emotional void; then fill that void in non-sexual ways

  1. Need for love and belonging. Help each youth create connections with adults in non-sexual ways, so they feel attachment and caring from others. Remember that sexuality imitates the feeling of closeness and love in the brain.  Many kids in foster care are horribly lonely; but convince themselves that they don’t need friends.
  2. Need to feel competent.  Help the kids in your home find something they are good at and encourage them. Help them fit in with at least one friend or join a club or team with a shared activity.
  3. Need for comfort when upset or stressed. Many children’s first choice of comfort is self-touch, please help them learn other ways to comfort themselves without feeling shame or embarrassment.
  4. Need for power. A person who has been abused will naturally want to compensate my controlling something else.  Give your youth something to be “in charge of” and ask for their advice regarding this subject. Teach the appropriate use of drawing straws, taking turns and rotating responsibilities so the foster youth have equal power with other siblings.
  5. Need for play and fun. Playing and having fun is one of the best ways to release stress or simply enjoy yourself.  The second best way to release stress and enjoy yourself (at least for adults) is by having sex.
  6. Need for sensory pleasure. Let’s face it, sex feels good, your body feels good and your brain is filled with endorphins.  But there are other ways to also get pleasure through the senses.
  7. Need for affection. Sometimes the need for affection is directly confused with feeling aroused and what the youth actually needs is nurturing or cuddling.  This is a little tricky in a foster home setting, as cuddling may be confused for sexual intentions and advice from a therapist or service provider is recommended.
  8. Need to avoid feeling intense pain. Being pre-occupied with sexuality fills the empty spaces in your brain so you don’t have to think about the pain in your life. Help the youth find other ways to fill this space with hobbies or other interests; better yet, help them learn to tolerate the pain in small doses and express emotions in healthy ways.
  9. Need to feel safe. In order for a child to develop emotionally, they must feel physically and emotionally safe. That means there is no threat of further abuse, shame or guilt.  Sexuality can become a coping skill by manipulating others; which also protects the youth from feeling vulnerable or weak.

Stop/Limit use of Pornography

  1. Computer and internet time should be monitored to the best of your ability. Remember, the youth has more time, energy and motivation to break through the parental controls software than the parent has to maintain it.
  2. The absolute best defense is your relationship with the youth in your home, not punishments. Talk, teach, coach, and help your youth manage what they are exposed to on the internet and how to interact with others in safe and healthy ways.
  3. Girls are just as likely to get involved in pornography as boys. In my experience, boys tend to search for porn online and girls tend to find it by accident.  But once they get exposed, they can’t resist wanting to see more.
  4. Please be willing to talk to them about what happens online and in social media, or find someone who will.
  5. 93% of teens use the internet every day and 24% use it “almost constantly”. It’s almost a full time job to manage the social media the youth in your home will have access to.  Even if it’s only via friends’ phones and the internet at school. So, welcome to your new hobby.
  6. Be informed about Cyber-bullying and sexting, which are both much more common than sexual predators online. This directly ties into emotional needs as described above.
  7. It’s a whole new world. Studies in 2013 found that 59% of children are using social networking by age 10 and 75% of children age 0 to 8 use mobile devices that can access the internet.   Children and teens have no idea that the sexual images that they will see online do not happen in real life, in healthy relationships.  This has the ripple effect of damaging future relationships.
  8. Pornography is the exact opposite of sexual respect. Healthy sexuality means ADULTS have sexual activity in a RELATIONSHIP with a REAL LIVE PERSON, not an image on the computer screen, which may or may not be real.  Make sure the adults in the youth’s life model this message in their own behavior.

Updated November 2019

A child or teen who has acted out sexually will benefit from clear guidelines that set the rules for their behavior. These kinds of rules provide the structure, comfort and security all children need to grow into healthy adults. This is a very long list and does not apply to every family, please seek the guidance of a professional counselor to decide which rules can be the most helpful according to your situation.   This list is prioritized by importance and is meant to be used in conjunction with the  Privacy Rules Cards and A Letter to Caregivers About Supervision and Safety.

Sexual Respect

The exact opposite of sexual abuse is sexual respect.  One positive message is: “every person, young and old, deserves to be respected and sex is a great and wonderful thing for adults, when they think and think about when to share their bodies”. Do all you can to avoid objectification, which is seeing a person as an object, most typically a sexual object. The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.

  • Suggestive, sexual or obscene language is not allowed from anyone. 
  • Sexually explicit (Rated R or Mature) materials such as magazines, catalogs, TV programs, you tube videos, movies (some PG-13),video games and music should be completely eliminated from the household.

Being Alone With One Other Person

If your child has problematic sexual behaviors (PSB) or has been arrested for child on child sexual assault,  or if they behave seductively or aggressively, they need direct supervision! This means they are never alone with another child and sometimes this includes older children and other adults.The goal is to teach problem solving, social skills and help them manage feelings. This eliminates the possibility of false allegations or confusion about the intent of a behavior.

  • An adult or approved chaperone must supervise the youth with PSB when they are with younger children.  The adult may need to be able to both SEE and HEAR everything the youth does and says, depending on the situation.
  • The supervision must be done by someone who is familiar with the child’s problem.
  • Siblings are not allowed to provide supervision; this alters the family dynamic and creates an unhealthy balance among siblings that could facilitate additional problems.
  • Adults will provide pre-teaching, coaching and/or feedback to the child as they learn to interact with others.
  • If two children have engaged in sexual behaviors, they will NOT be alone together until they are both 18.

Sexual Arousal

Help children differentiate between feelings and behaviors. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings. However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings he or she has.  Make sure the youth knows how to react to feeling aroused and has the opportunity to excuse themselves from difficult situations. Touching your own private parts is very different for children than adults due to the lack of hormones and sex drive so I prefer the term “genital stimulation” rather than “masturbation”.

  • Children and teens need very specific and individualized instructions on how to distract themselves when aroused sexually.
  • The child or teen will have a list of things that they can do without permission, examples include: puzzles, games, drawing, jumping rope, swinging or riding bikes.
  • Help the youth understand that “It is OK to touch yourself if you are in private and it does not interfere with other fun things like playing with friends”.
  • If a teenage youth is going to be discouraged by caregivers from masturbating, this should be discussed in private with the therapist as this may contribute to the youth having MORE problems with sexual behavior.


Sexual respect means ADULTS have sexual activity in a RELATIONSHIP with a REAL LIVE PERSON, not an image on the computer screen, which may or may not be real. Make sure the adults in the youth’s life model this message in their own behavior. Technology and managing mobile devices are tricky because all kids are connected to their friends and school through their phones or the computer.  However, intentional or accidental exposure to pornography or unhealthy sexualized images (pornography) is a factor in almost all cases of PSB.  Remember, the youth has more time, energy and motivation to break through the parental controls software than the parent has to maintain it.

  • All computer time should be monitored to make sure the youth is not “accidently” exposed to more sexualized images.
  • Parental control software should be installed and monitored by a knowledgeable adult on all devices including the WiFi network in your home.
  • Provide education and alternatives to digital media for the youth if they cannot resist the temptation to seek out pornography.
  • If the youth has been desensitized to sexualized images (pornography) obtained through digital media, then they need a “technology diet”.
  • Teach the youth about how to be a good online citizen.

Sex Education

All children, including the youth with sexualized behavior, need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.

  • Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks will be used.
  • All children (any age) should know the meaning and the appropriate terms for the sexual behavior that has been done to them or that they have done to others.
  • Every child or teen should have an age appropriate, caregiver approved book about sex education that they can have unlimited access to.  The best place for this book may or may not be in the child’s bedroom, depending on the situation.


Everyone has a right to privacy. Children who have been abused or who have sexually harmed another person deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history.  It may or may not be appropriate to share with others your child’s need for supervision.  A good phrase to explain things is “We have had a problem with using good judgement so we are keeping a closer eye on things”.

  • Children are to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior.
  • Reinforce that “It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts or show your parts to someone else unless there is a medical reason”.
  • Children deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.
  • If adults are engaged in sexual activity, they will lock the bedroom door always and make sure children cannot hear sexually related noises. 
  • Adults will help the youth understand the “fine line” between secrecy and privacy. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.

Mutual Respect

Sometimes intimidation is a part of a youth’s problematic sexual behavior. This needs to be turned into mutual respect. A simple definition of mutual respect is “what’s important to you– is important to me”. A youth does not get more respect or less respect due to their problematic sexual behavior. In some situations within a family, everyone has an equal vote, everyone’s opinion counts, and the parents have the power to “veto”

  • Encourage equality among siblings by giving younger children equal power when deciding family activities.
  • Adults will teach the appropriate use of drawing straws, taking turns and rotating responsibilities.
  • A youth with sexualized behavior should not have any authority or a supervisory role over younger children.
  • Babysitting is not recommended, under any circumstances or even for a short time, this includes “watching” a younger sibling when mom or dad is busy etc.


Children with sexualized behavior need lots of NON SEXUAL touch. They need to feel affection, friendship, caring and love in non sexual ways. Please consult with the youth’s therapist to identify what types of touch will be the most helpful.  Youth should learn that affection is a part of sexual activity, but not always, and there is a way to show affection in public that is NON SEXUAL. If your child has also been sexually abused, this is especially important that they can say NO in situations they do not like. This may include situations of feeling intimidated or taken advantage of.

  • No one should touch another person without permission. Everyone should ask for hugs.
  • Children have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Adults will help them to practice this.
  • Adults and older youth will NEVER pressure a child into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable.
  • Adults in the home can show NON SEXUAL affection towards each other in front of the children (hugging, holding hands, light kissing).
  • Do not allow children to sit on the lap of another youth.


It is a good idea for ALL family members to be conscious of what they wear.  Clothing choices and attire worn inside and outside the home should contribute to sexual respect.  One concept for discussion is the difference between being “sexy” or “hot” and engaging in sexual activity with others.  Is it reasonable to expect someone to look “sexy” and not be “sexual”?

  • Maintain modesty with clothing, wearing robes over pajamas and being mindful of quotes and sayings on t-shirts, etc.

Wrestling and Tickling

As common and normal as these childhood behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones. They can put the weaker child in an overpowered and uncomfortable or humiliating position. Touching of private parts can be “accidental” or not accidental and justified as tickling. Use good judgment when deciding if a youth should play sports or games with younger children if there is a lot of physical contact, such as football, swimming, sardines, and three legged races.

  • Tickling and wrestling is not allowed.

Bedrooms and Bathrooms

In general, it is recommended that children who are already confused about sexuality have separate bedrooms and bathroom time.  These two locations are often the site for sexual behaviors, so they might trigger flashbacks/memories or strong emotions when the child or children are in the rooms again.

  • Decide which rooms in the house are private or public; obviously the bathroom is private, but the need or insistence on using locks should be discussed.
  • Bedrooms and basements also need clarification about whom enters and under what circumstances.
  • A youth with PSB should never enter the bedroom of  a younger youth unless an adult is present.

The rationale for these rules is similar to other safety rules in modern society: wearing seat belts, following TSA rules at the airport and random drug screenings for hazardous jobs.  Even if you can trust the person, you still follow safety rules so that everyone can remain safe and no one has to spend even one minute worrying about the possibility of harmful sexual behavior in the future.


Let’s be honest, the rules about private parts are usually not talked about and not talking about them makes a child vulnerable.

You know there are unspoken rules about all sorts of things: what to do in church, when and where to pass gas, how to pick your nose, and when to ask a lady if she is pregnant.  If you didn’t know, the rule is to NEVER ask.  It’s hard figuring out all these rules as a kid, especially the rules about private parts.  This makes children vulnerable to participate in sexual behavior because they simply don’t know what the rules are.  Even when older children do know the rules, they might not have the sophistication to know how to handle stress, control sexual urges, or respond to unintentional exposure of explicit material (which by the way, will happen to 70% of them).

Kids get mixed messages about sexuality.

To complicate things further, kids simply don’t know the difference between acting sexy and acting sexual.  Think about the messages given by you, friends and family, or society at large.  Young girls are applauded for twerking during a dance recital but are promptly told they are being “nasty” by prancing down the hallway.  So, what if their piano teacher wants them to act sexy? Or their cousin tells them to play strip poker? How will they know what to do? Well, hold on to your hat, you will have to talk about sexuality and teach them the rules.

Yes, I know it will be hard, but you can do it.

You will have to teach your child about Privacy Rules; the rules about the private places on their body.

You will have to tell them about sexual behavior and the rules that go with it. You can call it touching rules or privacy rules or just the rules.  Telling a child what is OK and what is NOT OK concerning their private parts goes a long way in preventing sexual abuse.

You can be casual.  Talk about the rules concerning your child’s body in general.  Say, “brush your teeth, use a Kleenex when you pick your nose, and oh, here are some rules about your private parts.”  Or, bring up the rules during bath time, when you encourage your child to wash their own private parts.  Mention the rules when you see someone breaking them (or following them) on TV.

Or, do it formally. Sit everyone in the family down, including teenagers, and have a family meeting.  Go through the rules and explain that you, as the parent, are there to help them follow the rules.  Make a poster of the rules and put it up somewhere.  Don’t forget to add that all grownups are supposed to respect the rules that kids have about their private parts.  If you don’t want to make your own poster, you can download these examples Privacy Rules Cards    Please pick whichever way works best for you, just do it.

Rule # 1   It is NOT OK to touch other people’s private parts.  

If needed, explain to very young kids that private parts are the places on their body that are covered by a swimsuit.  Pretty simple and straightforward, right?  Except nothing about sexual abuse is straightforward.  That is why you will need to have more than one, maybe even dozens, of conversations about privacy rules.  To be more specific with this rule, you may add:  If an older person makes you touch their private parts, it is not your fault and you will not get into trouble.  The older person is almost always to blame for breaking this rule since they are older and know more about what is OK and not OK.

A case in point is the 7 year old child abuse victim who is forced to “do things” (sexual things) to a much older youth. For years, the victim was asked if anyone had “touched him inappropriately,” and of course he responded with the technically correct answer of “no.”  Even worse, was that he felt responsible for his abuse, and his own traumatic memories, since he was the only one “doing the things.”

         broke yours off2

Rule # 2  It is NOT OK for anyone to touch your private parts.

This rule has an exception:  Sometimes, very rarely, it’s OK for someone to touch your private parts.  If you are not sure, please ask me or someone you trust ( also rule #8).  One way to tell if a type of touch on private parts is OK, is to think about secrets.  The times it is OK to touch private parts is when it is NOT a secret, like when someone is changing a baby’s diaper or the doctor checks them for medical reasons.  If someone touches your private parts and you feel like it should be secret, then that is NOT OK, and this is called secret touching (thank you Jan Hindman and the Very Touching Book).

Side note: I also like to use the term secret touching instead of bad touching so kids don’t associate sex with something “bad.”  Their future spouse or partner will appreciate it.

Rule # 3 It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts (in real life or in pictures).

This rule gives you (and me) a chance to talk about pornography.  I believe it is especially important to enforce this rule as generations of kids become more advanced with technology and even toddlers know how to access the internet.  Unfortunately, the internet is filled with billions of inappropriate images and pornography, mostly homemade.  However, it is natural and healthy for children to be curious about the difference between the private parts of boys and girls.  There are lots of good sex education books available with cartoon drawings of private parts that are appropriate, healthy and positive for children. Please visit the book store and find one that matches your family’s values and place it in your child’s room.  Then remind them: it’s OK to look at pictures of private parts in this book that I gave you since it will help you know how bodies are made.

My advice about pornography for adults :   Please don’t have pornography in the house or on any electronic device your child even touches.   Or in the car, or the attic, or the box in the basement leftover from college that actually belongs to your old roommate. I haven’t met a kid yet that didn’t find the “hidden” porn collection. Let’s be real, kids have more motivation, time, and energy to go looking for porn and other “adult” items than adults have the motivation, time, and energy to keep the same items locked up and hidden.  Please just think about it, even if you think it’s OK for adults to look at porn, it is really damaging to kids.

Rule # 4  It is NOT OK to show your private parts to other people.

This rule is the counterpart of “looking” at private parts in rule #3.  Younger kids need this concept split into 2 rules to cover all the bases.  I like this rule since it will help prevent your child from being used for child pornography.  It happens more often than you think.  Again, follow the advice in Rule #3 as to help kids with their natural curiosity to know what the private parts of the opposite sex look like.

Rule #5 It is NOT OK to take pictures of private parts.

As of 2017, the average age of a child getting a smart phone or internet capable mobile device is 10.3.  That means children as young as 4th grade have the ability to send and receive sexualized images of themselves or their peers.  Current research indicated that about 15 percent of kids age 12 to 17 had either sent or received a sexualized image from a peer.  So, besides hoping that your child will be in the other 85%, lets plant the seed early that this behavior is NOT OK.  Private parts are special and sharing them, even in a photo or an app on a smart phone is a big decision that needs to be made when you are much much older.  To read the research on sexting, look here:

Rule # 6  It is OK to touch yourself if you are alone and behind a locked door and do not take too much time.


Rule #6A   It is OK to touch your private parts to keep them clean.

This rule doesn’t really have all that much to do with preventing sexual abuse, but since all human being touch their privates, even if it’s only to wash them, the rule about touching yourself needs to be explained.

OK, get ready, this rule is a tricky one; stay with me.  Many, many people have strong opinions about touching their own private parts, and you may already know how you will handle this topic.   But maybe I have some new information for you to consider?  I believe that kids need guidance.  You may not believe me, but before puberty, before the influx of hormones, children who touch themselves are most likely doing it for comfort, not sexual satisfaction.  Some children are very sexualized because of their environment or history and it would appear that they are trying to achieve a climax of sorts with their genital stimulation.  I have specifically chosen not to use the term masturbation, as I believe that word describes adult sexual behavior.  When children talk to me about their genital stimulation, their desire is to relieve stress, feel better, end anxiety, or cope with a difficult situation.  You will have to trust me that they are not thinking, “oh, I’m aroused and I want an orgasm.”    If you have a kid that seems to really be compelled (not the same as a sex drive) but very powerful indeed, to touch their own private parts, then please use balance in helping them understand themselves.  I know it’s tempting, but telling a child that genital stimulation is nasty, gross, or perverted can damage your child emotionally.

Rule # 7 It is NOT OK to make others uncomfortable with your behavior or language when it is sexual or wrong for the situation.

These rules are all about BOUNDARIES.  Very simply,every kid will be less likely to be sexually abused if they are not confused about acting sexy or acting sexual.  These boundaries are 100 percent learned, either directly or indirectly from a child’s environment and the people in that environment.  This rule is helpful when teaching your child what’s OK and what’s NOT OK if they or anyone else:  tells a dirty joke, says Uranus (the planet), makes sexual hand gestures, calls their sister butt-face, or imitates Miley Cyrus’ twerking. Let’s go back to the statistic that 70% of children will be accidentally exposed to explicit sexual material on the internet. It may seem like you are powerless, but you do have a choice.  The choice is if you will teach them about what they see and hear OR stay silent about what they see and hear.


Rule #8 It is NOT OK to talk about private parts for fun with other kids.  If you have a question about privacy or sex, please ask a grown-up.

Almost all kids are exposed to some sort of sexualized information or images via their phones, social media or plain ole TV.  They want to know what all the fuss is about, especially if these images are immediately removed without explanation.  The most likely source to discuss these questions is with their friends, and the most likely source of misinformation is their friends.   The age in which this occurs is age 8 or 9.  Yup, that’s about 3rd grade.  Your kids are talking about sexual things in 3rd grade, trying to make sense of it all.  And if they tell you they have seen pictures of “naked people doing things” aka pornography aka sexualized images, then you are in for a great big discussion.  Remember, if the rule is to ask a grown up, that also means the grown up MUST give correct and helpful answers.

Rule #9  It is OK to tell (insert name here) if you have broken a privacy rule.  They will try to help you.

So this is rule can help in two different situations in which a child knows that they have broken a privacy rule.  First, it could help when a child is coerced to break a privacy rule by an older youth or adult as a means of sexual abuse, and the child doesn’t understand that their cooperation is not the same as consent.  Second, it could help in situations in which a child has a problem following the rules and they are afraid to ask for help.  It may be that the child broke a privacy rule before they knew what the rules were or they have broken a rule and are afraid they will get into trouble if they ask for help.  There are many times when children need consequences for their behavior, but this is not one of them.  Consequences alone will not solve this problem if a child feels compelled to participate in sexual behaviors with other children.  If you learn that your child has this problem, or you are unsure if your child’s behavior is concerning,  please seek professional advice, read other articles on this website or go to for more information.

Rule #10  If someone else breaks a rule, tell an adult you trust and keep telling until someone helps you.

The purpose of this rule is to encourage kids to talk about sexually inappropriate acts, not to make them feel bad for keeping secrets. Only 20% of sexually abused children report sexual abuse voluntarily and there is whole list of reasons why.    Children can be coerced, tricked, bribed, and threatened into doing things and keeping secrets EVEN THOUGH they sort of know it is breaking this rule.  Children are not fully developed human beings and are NEVER at fault for complying with abusive acts or not telling someone sooner.


Rule # 11  If you are not sure about something, ask someone to help you decide.

So even if we include the exception to every rule, you cannot really cover everything that could possibly happen.  Therefore, the 11th rule is the net to catch everything else that falls through the cracks.  One word of caution, you might be faced with some difficult questions, like your 10 year old asking about the word orgasm or worse, what “69” means.  You better be ready, ‘cuz it could happen.  And if you go back on your word and avoid the question, don’t worry, the internet won’t let them down, it has plenty of answers.

Main Points About The Rules

  1. Don’t wait, it won’t be easier or better later; you can start teaching the rules as soon as they can take off their own diaper.  If you want to download one of my versions of a privacy rules poster, look at this post Privacy Rules Cards
  2. Be simple; there are 11 rules and you want your child to follow them. You should pick the ones that are most important to you and your situation; if you child is very small, just pick two or three of the rules to start with.
  3. Talk about it, mention it, give examples, notice things on TV, make a poster, bring up the rules whenever you can.  You will need to go over these concepts again and again to be the most effective.
  4. There is a very good chance your child will accept these rules without question and be grateful that now they know what to do (and not do) about their private parts.
  5. You will have to follow the rules too if you are going to be completely effective in preventing sexual abuse.  Is your porn collection more important than that??  Just saying.
  6. Human sexuality is complicated and there are more issues to think about and talk about. But start with the basics. You can get into the other stuff as the child gets older and sees you, hopefully, as the best resource for his/her questions about sexuality.  Check out Dr. Laura Bermans’ book “Talking To Your Kids About Sex” for more great ideas.

 Sexual abuse is real, and now preventing sexual abuse can be real too.

When a kids knows what is OK and NOT OK, then they will know something isn’t quite right IF an older youth or an adult tries to convince them It’s OK, or no big deal to look at porn and wrestle in their underwear, or pose for a picture.  I know I know, it’s not a visual you want to have.  So have this visual, your child will say “NO!  My mom said looking at naked people is against the rules and it’s NOT OK, so I want to go home now.”  Wouldn’t that be a great thing?

For more information on sexual abuse prevention, problematic sexual behavior (PSB) or child on child sexual assault visit these websites: (sexual abuse prevention) (National Child Traumatic Stress Network) (sexual abuse prevention hotline) (National Center for Sexual Behavior of Youth)


Silovsky, J.F. (2009). Taking Action: Support for Families of Children with Sexual Behavior Problems. Vermont: Safer Society Press.