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How do we talk to our child about masturbation?

How do we talk to our child about masturbation? December 22, 2009

We have reached the point where we need to begin having discussions with our child about sex. Our child is 9. One of the major issues is what to teach them on this particular issue- masturbation.

I don’t want to condone the practice but I also don’t want them to feel completely terrible about themselves and their value as a person if they slip sometimes. My view of this practice is not as hardline as the Church’s view.

How is the best way to go about opening up discussions with children about this issue?


In my opinion, I would not bring up teachings of not participating in masturbation until the child is at least 12 years of age. Usually any self stimulation or masturbation that occurs before this age is still innocent in nature since children do not possess the sexual maturity that starts taking place with the onset of puberty. And I share your concern that we not inadvertently contribute to any unnecessary shame in our children’s sexual education.

A Parent’s Guide has a great chapter on the appropriate things to be teaching Primary-age children. Restraining from masturbation is not brought up until the later chapter geared towards adolescents.

I wholeheartedly agree that having discussions regarding sex at this age is important, especially since our children are growing up in a world where sexual messages are commonplace and vary widely in their content and values. The best way to do this is to keep an open dialogue and look for regular teaching opportunities. Sex education should not be looked at as a one-time event. Usually children go to their parents first with sex/body questions. How we respond will greatly influence whether or not they come back to us or go elsewhere for further information. It is OK when taken aback or legitimately stumped to say things like “let me get back with you on that,” “I don’t know, but I’ll find out for you,” “that’s a great question – give me some time to think about how I want to explain that to you,” etc. But make sure you do get back to your child and give an open and truthful answer ASAP (ideally the same day). This is how you will gain credibility and trust with your child. It is also a great strategy to first ask a child, “well, what do you think the answer to that is?” This tactic will give you a better idea of where the child is coming from, how they formulated the question to begin with and where they are at developmentally as far as being able to understand the complexity the answer may involve.

As far as how to talk about masturbation in particular it is important to let our adolescents know at least the following concepts:
  • Having sexual urges are normal.
  • Sexuality is part of the plan of happiness.
  • One of the main reasons why we are here on earth is to create a family. Sexuality is very much a part of this process.
  • It is normal for our genital areas to feel good when touched.
  • Because of this, people sometimes self-stimulate or masturbate. This means touching your genitals in a way that feels sexually good. You can do this to the point that you reach a climax, or orgasm. An orgasm feels very good and offers a physical release. There is nothing weird or wrong or bad that your body is able to do this.
  • At the same time it is important to understand what the purpose of our sexuality is: to be able to have children and to have a deep emotional bond with our husband or wife. Masturbation does not fall into either of these purposes. We are expected at times in our lives to put aside our own personal wants and desires for a bigger and better reward. This is one of those times. It is not because God does not want us to be happy or sexually satisfied. In fact, it is exactly because God DOES want those things for us.
  • At the right time, with the right person – the fact that your genitals feel good when touched should bring much pleasure and happiness. This is what I want for you as your parent and this is what God wants for all of us.
  • It is important to know that we all make mistakes in life and that is why we have the wonderful gift of the atonement. I know it can be embarrassing to talk about these kinds of things with your parents but we are willing to listen or give advice on any concerns you may have about this issue. I want you to feel good and confident about your body.
It is refreshing to see you taking this precious role as sexual educator of your child seriously and with the righteous desire of doing it in a loving and respectful way. I wish you the best of luck and please feel free to write back with any further concerns or questions.

A good article:

From A Parent’s Guide (4-11 year olds):

It is important that you teach your children about sexuality. The Lord has given the responsibility for the teaching of children to parents, and this is one area where children need accurate and morally correct information. The subject of sexuality is discussed so openly in today’s world that your children cannot avoid hearing about it. But most of what they hear will teach them the world’s abuse of the power of procreation. The home must be the place where they can learn the Lord’s plan for the use of this power and gain the strength to withstand the falsehoods taught by the world.

In matters of human sexuality, honesty and accuracy are important. Your children will hear of this subject in various ways. They may bring home offensive language, questionable stories, and blunt questions about sex. If they are to maintain gospel values, you need to answer their questions. Rationally answer, question, or seek sources of information together with the child. If ever there is a crucial time for open parent-child communication, it is during such conversations. This does not mean that you should force the child to confront details. The child’s own pace is usually the best indicator of how and when to proceed…

To answer questions accurately, you must know the names of body parts and at least basic facts about body functions. Slang terms are not in keeping with the divine origin of our bodies. We are forbidden to refer to Deity with disrespect. Would it be pleasing to the Lord to refer to our bodies made in his image with disrespect? Neither should we be silly and use ridiculous words or terms. Teach sexuality by using correct, respectful language, information, and example.


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