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


Letter of Blessing for Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused

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



All children seek  verbal or non-verbal feedback from the adults in their life to understand what has happened to them.  A caregiver can provide encouragement, hope and a vision of a positive future for youth who have been sexually abused.  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.

Here are some ideas about what to include in a letter to your child:

  1. Reminders that you do not blame them for any of the abusive events, even if your child feels partially responsible.
  2. The progress your child as made so far; what are you proud of?
  3. Praise and  encouragement for effort and attendance, “it has been hard, it will be hard, but I/We can handle it”.
  4. Talk about the future in a positive way, including your hopes and dreams for your child.  For example, think of the coin, “I, you, we will be OK”
  5. Statements that model the appropriate reaction to learning about the sexual abuse, and apologize if your earlier reaction was not what you wanted it to be.
  • You believe your child was sexually abused (even if some of the details may not be 100% correct). It is OK to acknowledge that the abuse has been a “really really bad thing”.
  • You will support your child no matter what. Please give a concrete example of how you will be supportive, such as:
    • Attending and paying for trauma focused therapy (without complaining).
    • Having empathy for them; try to understand your child’s thoughts and feelings, even if your child hasn’t worked through all the trauma yet.
    • Showing love and caring by listening to them, or leaving them alone, etc.
    • Changing things in the home environment to encourage sexual respect and reduce triggers/reminders.
    • Having hope that they will achieve healing, even when therapy is difficult, even if they don’t like it or want to quit.
  • You will be resilient and handle the adult stresses in life, including your own feelings about the abuse or managing the court system or your budget, etc.
  • You will protect your child from any future harm to the best of your ability. (This does not mean your child will always be happy, since they will still have chores, homework, etc.)

Thank you so much for doing all you can to help in your child’s healing process.


When treating sexual abuse, it’s important to remember two things or have two memories of the event.  First, remember that it was a very bad thing and the traumatic response in your body is real and needs to be honored.  But it doesn’t stop there, the sexual abuse has also given you opportunities.  In this case, this child had the opportunity to stop his abuser from hurting other children.  The end result if knowing that you will be OK AND it was a really really bad thing.

It is really important to remember both sides of the coin as you heal from trauma or sexual abuse.

  • It was a really, really bad thing AND…
  • I/You/We will be okay AND….

coin2 coin1

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.

Mantras for Parents of Teens

Sheryl Overby, MS LIMHP

1. We have to raise the kids we have, not the kids we were

This is a new day and age, and although we think the way we grew up or was parented worked pretty good, it most likely will not work in today’s society, culture and educational system. Kids are taught starting in preschool to have critical thinking skills, so they are learning to think for themselves and evaluate situations on their own. This will be great when resisting peer pressure, but it also means they will be less likely to follow your advice just “because I said so”.

2. It’s harder for them than it is for us

I know parenting is really hard and sometimes you have to put up with so many hassles that you wonder why you wanted to have kids in the first place. But no matter how hard it is for parents, it is much harder to be a kid, and especially a teenager today. They have more pressures than prior generations, including being asked in 8th grade to choose their career paths and the issues with social media are unprecedented. If you don’t believe me, check out a book by Chap Clark, Hurt Kids 2.0

3. It’s not about you, they just take it out on you

Kids have a tough time managing their emotions, and they have to spend all day at school being calm, following directions and managing the peer social strata of high school or middle school. Kids get about 500 commands a day, plus the hormones which lead to mood swings. They are literally “fried” when they get home from school. My 12 year old daughter yelled at me one day when asked how her day at school was. I could have punished her for “being disrespectful”, but instead I gave her some time to cool down and gently approached the subject again later. Come to find out, the boy she had a crush on did not say “hi” to her in the hallway that day at school. I know, seems silly as an adult, but to her this was devastating and her disrespect had nothing to do with me.

4. Timing is everything

One of the key lessons I learned the hard way was to always ask first before talking to my teens and pre-teens. Whether I just wanted to chat or focus on a problem behavior or a teaching moment, I eventually learned to ask if “this is a good time to talk?” The key word is “time” as they don’t always get a choice to talk, just a choice on when to talk. If a kid is not in the mood to talk and you go ahead, it will very likely turn out badly, trust me.

5. They have their own brain

Your children are not little robots, and therefore, can not be completely controlled by you. Whether we like it or not, they have their own brain and they are able to use it to make their own decisions. This is the nature vs. nurture argument. It is very important how you interact with your child and develop a relationship. But it’s also important to remember that you can’t control everything. If you have a kid who is compliant and eager to please, thank your lucky stars. You might want to take credit for it, but it’s actually more likely that it’s part of their “natural bent”. I had 3 kids; one was rebellious, one was worried about being perfect and so was compliant and one just complied because she wanted to. Not scientific proof, but true.

6. Their brains are the reason.

A child’s brain (mostly the pre-frontal cortex) does not fully mature until they are 24 or 25. This part of the brain manages their ability to make good decisions, plan ahead and problem solve. This is a developmental thing, just like learning to walk, parents have almost no control over when it actually happens. So based on this fact, the following mantras apply:

a. You can’t fix lack of maturity

They are going to make dumb decisions, its not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of WHEN and WHAT KIND, so don’t be surprised when they… don’t use their book for an open book test, pick a loser boyfriend or want to buy a $400 dress for their Junior prom.

b. Don’t expect them to plan ahead, for anything

Planning ahead is an adult thing, not a kid thing. You can help train them, but it will not come naturally until they are out of college. They especially have a hard time deciding what to do when they go out as a group as teens. The best you can expect is that they tell you where they end up, not where they are going. Since they literally change their minds on the way to place X     to go to place Y instead. Hopefully they have good critical thinking skills that they have honed since preschool and will have a way to get out of bad situation if needed.

c. They are more likely to learn from their own mistakes

You can preach, lecture, give consequences and scold, but kids who learn from their own mistakes are more likely to actually remember the lesson. It is so painful to watch as parents, because you know if they just listened to you, you could save them heartache and pain. But, what was the best way you learned?

7. Find a parenting mentor with kids about 5-7 years older than yours.

Parents with kids younger than yours or much older won’t be nearly as helpful as those who have just survived the stage you are in. Friends or family who don’t have kids or who have younger kids have all sorts of advice, and are happy to think they are experts, but they don’t really understand what it is like. When you talk to parents of kids that are just a few years older, they give very little advice and are more likely just to pat you on the shoulder and remind you that you will live through it. Since the truth is, every kid is completely different, and what works in one family, may or may not work in another. And if you talk to grandparents or folks with much older kids, they have forgotten how difficult it is and have these nice sweet remembrances and memories; which is not much comfort either.

8. If I let my teenager live, I will have grandchildren some day.

I know this is a morbid thought, but having teenagers was the hardest time for me. Every parent has a favorite stage of parenting and mine was everything but adolescence. The mantra that got me through lots of frustration during the teen years was the potential to enjoy grandchildren. I even found a plaque that said “you have children to love and grandchildren to love you back”.

9. Always “reset” the relationship

It is tempting to have an argument with your child, then wake up the next day and just go on as if nothing happened. With younger kids, they might forget, but teenagers won’t. The relationship has to be reset. This might mean an in-depth conversation with both parties apologizing, or might mean a simple gesture of sending heart emojis in a text. But there has to be a way to validate the relationship is back on track and you are there to be their safety net and coach. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get over the resistance of initiating the “reset” button. Do you want your child to come to you if they are in an abusive relationship? Do you want your child to call you if they are stuck at a party with no ride home? Do you want to walk your child down the aisle at his/her wedding? Do you want or help your child buy his/her first car?

10. Get a second opinion

If you are a single parent, please find an accountability partner or mentor to help you stay on track. It might be nice to have complete control over parenting decisions, but the downside is that there isn’t anyone there to help you know if you are over reacting or under reacting. And one or the other happens almost all the time. Getting a second opinion will prevent regrettable parenting decisions and the need to go back on your word. Another way to prevent this is wait to decide about major decisions for 24 hours, most people have a clearer head after a good nights sleep and more time to think about the right thing to do.

Possible Reason Why a Protective Caregiver

Might Deny Signs of Sexual Abuse

Sheryl Overby, MS  LIMHP

There are many many reasons why someone would question whether or not a person that they know, love and trust would sexually abuse a child.  Sexual abuse is one of the most hated social problems in our society, and no one freely admits they they have committed sexual abuse.  And for the sex    offender’s friends and family, it is just so hard for them to put that person  in the category of “sex offender”; frankly it’s so embarrassing that it  literally turns your world upside down.  Here are some common reasons why  it’s so hard to believe your child was sexually abused by someone you love.

  • Feels conflicted, has affection for abuser
  • Forced to choose between child and abuser
  • Feels ashamed, there must be something wrong with their family
  • Feels responsible for abuse since she couldn’t protect her child in the first place
  • Loses trust in self and ability to “tell” when someone might be an abuser
  • Issues with own sexuality or attractiveness
  • Fear of losing financial security if the abuser was provider for family
  • Fear of NHHS involvement
  • Fear of being blamed
  • Fear child will be blamed, so would rather keep it a secret
  • Emotional dependence on abuser
  • Afraid of being emotionally or physically hurt by offender
  • Ashamed of her choice of partner
  • Sexual abuse history in self (too many triggers)
  • Protection not role modeled in family of origin
  • Made her own attempts to protect the child (but they didn’t work)
  • Believes they can solve the problem within the family