Information for parents

When a young perosn engages in sexually harmful behaviour it can effect the whole family. Often parents feel torn between wanting to protect their child and wanting professional help to make sure that the behaviour does not occur again. It can be difficult to know what to do. If you discover that your child has a sexual behavior problem, you may experience a range of reactions, including:

  • Difficulty believing that the sexual behavior really happened
  • Anger--at your child, at the other children involved, at yourself, and at the world in general Feeling upset with or withdrawing from your child
  • Sadness and depression
  • Guilt and shame
  • Isolation Disappointment, in your child and yourself
  • Confusion and uncertainty, especially if it is unclear why your child is sexually acting out
  • Nightmares and other traumatic stress reactions, particularly if you were sexually abused as a child


It may not seem like it at the time but with help and support you, your child, and your family can recover from this very stressful time. Child Welfare Cunsultancy Services can offer this support to you.

What should you do?

  • Close supervision is important when the child is playing with other children. Check on them frequently to make sure you know where they are and what they are doing. Do not allow them to play in a room with the door closed.
  • It is preferable that the child not bathe or sleep in the same bed with other children. Also, if possible, the child should sleep in a room alone.
  • The child should not be given any opportunities for assuming a role of authority over younger or more vulnerable children.
  • Sexually explicit materials should not be available in the home. With easy accessibility to sexually explicit materials on the internet, parents need to be mindful of and monitor their child’s internet use.
  • Adults should enforce privacy in their bedroom and in the bathrooms. There should be established rules about entering the adults’ bedroom (e.g., knock before entering). If engaging in sexual activity, adults should take steps to ensure that children cannot come in and observe.
  • The adults should use appropriate modesty in the child’s presence. There should be no nudity, partial nudity, or explicit displays of sexual behaviour by either parent or other adults in front of the child. It is, however, appropriate for adults to show normal affection to each other and the children.
  • The child should not be permitted to sleep or bathe with the parent.
  • Adults should communicate clear rules and expectations about privacy an appropriate sexual behaviour to the child. It is important that all members of the family know and observe the rules.


When your child engages in sexually harmful behaviour, the thoughts of telling people outside your family can be terrifying. You have nothing to fear from social workers or therapists. Everyone wants what you want, to help your child and ensure the safety and welfare of children.

When you discover your child's sexualy problematice behaviour, contact the HSE Social Work Department, or other healthcare professional, such as your GP. If you would like to discuss your situation with us, do not hesitate to contact us through our contact page.