Sexual behavior among children is common. They are curious and may explore their bodies as a normal part of development – these children may need to be taught healthy boundaries, such as doing this in private.

Other behaviors are more problematic, such as when a behavior is
• Too frequent
• Distracting
• Does not respond to boundary setting
• Involves other children

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

Children who engage in problematic sexual behavior (PSB) may do so as a result of difficulties with impulse control or exposure to sexual material. In some cases, they may have a history of trauma; however, not all children with PSB have been sexually abused.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF IT HAPPENS?

Learning that their children are engaging in PSB can be a very stressful experience for caregivers. Families may feel shock, anger, fear, or isolation, and they often feel unprepared to tackle a topic that often feels taboo and hard to discuss.

If a child has engaged in PSB, remember:
• Stay calm! Take a deep breath.
• Children deserve care, not judgment.
• Seek guidance from a professional trained to work with children experiencing problematic sexual behaviors.
• Consider treatment or assessment for any other children who were involved.

WHAT CAN I DO TO KEEP CHILDREN SAFE?

• Do not be afraid to talk about sex! Read some suggestions here
• Make sure the child has appropriate supervision by a responsible adult.
• Monitor use of electronic devices and the Internet.
• Teach and practice boundaries and sexual behavior rules:
• It’s not okay to show your private parts to others.
• It’s not okay to look at other people’s private parts.
• It’s not okay to touch other people’s private parts.
• It’s not okay to touch your private parts in public.
• It’s not okay to use sexual language or make others uncomfortable with your behavior.

GUIDING TREE PROGRAM

Some children and families need additional support and treatment for managing PSB. The Guiding Tree Program helps families find solutions for PSB in children ages 7-12 through developmentally appropriate education. Guiding Tree therapists are specially trained to PSB using an effective and compassionate way.

Children who complete this treatment model are successful! After treatment, they are no more likely to engage in future PSB than their peers.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT?

It is important that caregivers feel comfortable with their child’s treatment provider.
Never be afraid to ask questions! Considerations when selecting the right treatment for your family can be found here.

Problematic Sexual Behavior-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for School-Aged Children (PSB-CBT) is a treatment model supported by many years of research across the world. Treatment can be conducted in a family/individual or group setting and includes:

• Assessment at intake and throughout treatment
• Caregiver education to strengthen supervisory and behavioral management skills
• Child skills-building
       o Feelings identification and management
       o Cognitive coping
       o Impulse-control and decision-making
       o Social Skills
       o Empathy

HOW DO I GET HELP?

Guiding Tree is currently accepting referrals for its Baltimore City, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County locations. We offer both group and individual treatment models. Please contact us to begin the admission process. Professionals may also submit a completed referral form to guidingtree@fcsmd.org.

Once your information is received:

1. Guiding Tree will reach out to the family and conduct a brief phone screen.
2. If appropriate, the family will schedule an intake assessment.
3. The intake assessment will be conducted over two days.
4. Results of the intake assessment will be reviewed and discussed by the treatment team.
5. Recommendations will be reviewed with the family.
6. If appropriate, a treatment schedule will be determined and treatment will begin.

TO LEARN MORE

For questions about how to handle childhood PSB or to make a referral to the Guiding Tree program, please contact us at 410-838-9000 or guidingtree@fcsmd.org.

Additional information about PSB and treatment can be found at National Center for Sexual Behavior in Youth

Download Referral Form