Helping 10 year old daughter with anxiety over "playing doctor" when she was 5
When my daughter was 5 or 6 years old, she was caught by her brother and his friend naked with the friend's little brother (also 5 or 6) in her bedroom (she was friends with this boy). I felt I handled it fairly well, told them firmly (but not angrily) that wasn't an appropriate way to play, let the boy's parents know what happened and left it at that. My daughter was embarrassed and upset by it, which I thought was a normal reaction to being caught in such a situation. I tried to ease her fears, telling her that while it wasn't an appropriate way to play, it was normal in kids her age. It was a one-time incident. She and the boy are no longer friends, but they interact in school and in the neighborhood and because my son is friends with his brother and him as well.
A year or two later, the little boy apparently was talking about what happened at the school playground, which re-opened the wound for my daughter. Occasionally she lost sleep over it.
Now my daughter is ten years old, and tonight she came to me with worries that the boy will tell others what happened, even though she admits she really doesn't even remember exactly what happened (she hadn't mentioned the incident for a long while, and I had hoped she had stopped worrying about it). She says whenever she thinks about it she gets a bad feeling inside and she has trouble sleeping (I think the fact that her brother and his brother walked in on them, and that there were "witnesses" to it makes it worse, and that our son is still good friends with the big brother of the boy her age and also him--they live right across the street).
I once again reassured her that the behavior was perfectly normal for kids that age, that a similar thing happened to me when I was that age, that I also worried about it, but that everything turned out fine. This little boy likes her friend and she is especially afraid that the boy will tell her friend and her friend won't like her anymore. I told her I doubted the boy would say anything about it at this age, as it would be embarrassing for him as well, but if he did, she had my permission to deny that it happened. She said she had thought about telling her best friend, but I advised against it, saying I didn't think at age 10 the girl was mature enough to react the way my daughter hoped she would, and that it would be best not to say anything about it.
I hate the thought that she has been carrying this weight for 5 years. I asked her if there was anything I could do, and she said not unless I could make it never to have happened. I told her I always want her to come to me when she is worried and talk to me. I reassured her she didn't do anything "wrong" or "bad" and that there wasn't anything wrong with her as a person. I apologized to her in case I over-reacted and said something at the time to make her feel badly about what happened (I don't think I did, but it did catch me off guard at the time, so she might have picked up on something I didn't intend). After our talk, she said she felt a little better.
Is there anything more I should be doing to help my daughter with this? I don't want to blow it up and make it into a bigger deal than it already is (for her), but I want her to be reassured that she is okay. I totally understand how she feels and want to help her get through this as much as I can, again without blowing it out of proportion. Should I continue to let her take the lead in terms of discussing it, and simply continue to reassure her in the future if this comes up again? Or if it comes up again, should I ask her if she wants to speak to a counselor? Or should I ask her if she wants to speak to a counselor about it even if she doesn't mention it again?
Is her reaction to this a normal reaction? As I said, the incident itself only happened the one time. She has never displayed any behavior that makes me think it was more than a simple case of children exploring one another. For the most part she is a happy, social child. She enjoys school and has many interests.
I think you are doing great for your little girl. It is wonderful that she can come to you and talk to you about this. I would continue to have "special talk time" with her where she can discuss any topic she wants. I would probably ask her how is she feeling about the "playing doctor" situation for a little while until she feels better about it. I don't think going to a counselor right now is good. It might blow up the situation even more. Maybe wait a few weeks to see if she feels better then if she doesn't,ask her if she wants to go to talk to someone else about it.
Thanks! I spoke to her about whether she thought she would like to talk to a counselor, and she said no, but if she was still feeling the same way in middle school she might. She hasn't had any trouble sleeping since. I'll definitely keep an eye on her.
Hi wanted to say that the same thing happened between my daughter and the boy next door and on occassions this comes up in conversation, like you we spoke to health visitor she explained completely normal especially when 2 best friends are a boy and girl and spend alot of time together because they are different, 5 years down the line and still next door i hear them talk about it and tell there friends that the reason they were showing bits was because they thought y is his or hers different both proud of there own things i think and thinking they had something special said if you show me yours ill show you mine. Tell your daughter like our kids they both remember this and just simply say to others that they wondered y they were different and just looked at each others did not realise that they were different cause girl boy, they are best mates so thought they should have same things.
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