April 04, 2008,
K.H. asks from Marlborough, MA on April 03, 2008
6 Year Old Girl Playing 'Doctor' on the School Bus
My stepdaughter was caught on the bus playing 'touchy feely' with a boy. A couple of weeks before she 'flashed' a boy in class. I and her father have discussed with her about having 'respect for your body' and thought she understood, but it seems to not have gotten through. Sometimes when trying to explain things or discipline issues (lying) she will try to distract ('look at the flower!'), so it's tough to know what is sinking in. We will ask her to repeat what we said to see, but I'm just not sure of the level of understanding.
She lives fulltime with her mother who is a drama queen on any smallest thing. We cannot depend on her to have perspective or followup. We are doing the best we can with the weekends we share with her. Any advice on how to resolve this problem would be appreciated.
So What Happened?™
Okay, not as bad as we thought, and the mom really picked up the ball and had a good discussion with her on boundaries and strategies to deal with the behavior. Apparently the boy initiated it (with children you never know if it is the truth). Her mom directed her to only sit with girls on the bus, and if anyone is doing something to make her uncomfortable, to tell the bus driver. This is what the girl told me, so it sounds as though she comprehended the situation and appropriate responses. The mother does not have a boyfriend, and I don't suspect abuse in any way (unfortunately in this day and age, you do have to keep an eye on potential symptoms). I'm sure some therapy would be helpful for her, since she is the only child in her class with divorced parents. But though the mother is curiously set to bring her daughter to a doctor at a moment's notice, seems awfully resistant to bring her to her eye doctor and dentist. I think it's a money issue. We do the best we can with the limited time we have her, but unfortunately seems to go by too fast. Her Dad is great, calls her twice a day, really talks to her and interacts with her. He says she comes first, no offense to me. I say that's just how it should be. I love them both and am very lucky.
Thank you all for your support.
C.C. answers from Boston on April 04, 2008
Ok, I agree with the other mom that responded with suggestions of a therapist. What jumps out at me is the fact that she does not live with you full time and therefore you cannot attest to what she is or is not being exposed to. You and your husband could have the best family situation, but if she is going home to a "not so good" situation, her issues are going to get worse. Until you can get her into a therapist, I would suggest you stick to your rules, routines, etc. in YOUR home. Make it very clear that this behavior is not allowed in your home (what ever behavior you do not like, lying, inappropriate touching) but very brief and to the point. Focus on her positive traits and I would not even bring her mother into the conversation (meaning don't talk about the mom to the daughter). The mom may be a drama queen, but not dealing with behavior at the age of 6 can only lead to increased trouble when she is 10, 12, 16....
D.D. answers from Burlington on April 04, 2008
What is she seeing at home and could she be being sexually abused?
G.V. answers from New London on April 04, 2008
You'd better ask her if any other child or any grown-up has touched her privately - it's better to make sure since she isn't in your and your husband's company all the time, but with her mother some of the time, and you don't know what goes on there. I am not trying to scare you. I am just saying it is better to be safe than sorry. I am sure nothing happened to her, but this way you can get that idea out of the way and focus on her being just naturally curious and deal with it along those lines.
F.G. answers from Boston on April 04, 2008
Is there any chance you could talk with the girl's teacher? Maybe see if you guys can figure out if there is something going on at school that is causing her to act out. Personally, I don't think this is normal. She seems to be trying to get attention. My question is, "where is she learning this from?" Also, "did she use to flash people when younger?" Ok, if she was "flashing" people in general like some kids will do, that would be kinda normal, but she seems to be targeting boys. My kids pull their shirts up all the time, but they aren't doing it to get attention and they don't "target" anyone. And my oldest who is 6 doesn't do it unless he wants us to see his belly for some reason. Even though the mother is a drama queen, does she know the concern? I would have the father approach her (since she might just give you, she's not your daughter speech) and say we are concerned about this behavior and see if she is willing to talk about it. If she's not, well, you already knew that might be the case and now she knows you are concerned about the issue.
C.B. answers from Boston on April 04, 2008
This child needs a therapist. Not for the Dr. thing - that is totally natural. (However, not on the school bus!) But that can easily be dealt with.
What comes to the forefront for me is the much larger issue here, the relationshiop with the mother. You obviously have an opinion and it is not a positive one...
I would caution you to be VERY careful that your bitterness towards her does not come through. This will only diminish you in the child's eyes. (Hey - I'd feel the same way, it's not right or wrong, it just is... I'd almost say that it too, is natural.)
But be very clear - Mom has the power here, because she is Mom and always will be. It's all very deeply seated and psychological.
So my best advice is for you to find a therapist of your own (I have a fabulous referral in Amherst, NH), and one for the child as well just so she, and you, can navigate this mom - step-mom thing.
This is for the rest of your lives - that's a very long time for a six year old.
It's much harder on children than we think! Any your are in a position to be her strongest ally and supporter. She needs you, now more than ever.
The Dr. thing? No big deal. Private parts, private places. All very factual without any big drama.
C.F. answers from Pittsfield on April 03, 2008
You're in a tough position trying to counteract what your step-daughter may be getting at her mother's house, especially since you probably don't know everything she's being exposed to. She is lucky to have you in her life. I don't know if you are a Christian or not, but if so, check out the "God's Design for Sex Series." I believe you can get it through christianbooks.com. It's a very non-threatening way to introduce this issue to young children in storybook fashion, and could be a good alternative to what she may be receiving elsewhere. If you're not Christian, just disregard this, and keep doing what you're doing anyway. Even though you can't tell how much is sinking in, I'm sure some of it is. God bless you.