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Sexual Identity in Young Children

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My seven-year-old daughter is an only child, and she's extremely intelligent and inquisitive. Every time she plays with her girlfriends, she pretends to be a boy. She tells me that she does this because she likes boys. Recently, we've caught her playing "sex" with another little girl. She was kissing her and laying on top of her. I tried not to react too negatively. But to be perfectly honest, I have no idea what to tell her. She says that she sees this sex on television. Is this behavior normal? Is my daughter gay?

A: Your daughter is probably too young for you to determine what her sexual orientation will be. She is still developing her identity and it will be awhile before she will know for sure what sexual direction she will take.

You were wise to not overreact to her play with the other girl; experimental play with kissing is typical at this age. You do need to let your daughter know that play like that is not appropriate with a boy or a girl and that she should not do it any more. Try to be aware of what she is watching on television as well.

You don't indicate how long you've noticed these behaviors. If they continue over time, you may want to talk with your pediatrician. Whatever direction your daughter takes, make sure that she knows that you accept and support her.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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