South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Children with problem sexual behaviours - Supervision & safety planning

For Family & Friends, Teachers, Workers

Tags: Child Development, Offending Behaviours

Author: South Eastern CASA

Problem sexual behaviours is the term given to children, under the age of 10, who have behaved in a sexualised way that may cause harm to themselves or others. Some sexual behaviour is part of a child’s normal, healthy development. To help you determine what sexual behaviour is healthy, concerning or problematic please refer to the information booklet for carers and professionals “Age Appropriate Sexual Behaviour in Children and Young People.

Recent research and SECASA’s practice wisdom suggests that problem sexual behaviours can cease with interventions. These commonly include counselling, parental involvement, and safety planning.

A safety plan may require a collaborative approach between parents, extended family, friends and professionals involved in your child’s life. All of whom can provide appropriate intervention and interruption of the problem sexual behaviours if required, ensuring the safety of your child and others.

One of the first stages of treatment is the development of a safety plan and supervision. Professionals often recommend this to prevent further harm to your child or others. The counselor will work with parents and the relevant people, those who need to know, in developing this. Supervision does not have to be the responsibility of the parents alone. Ensuring a consistent approach promotes successful outcomes.

Whilst most children have some capacity to regulate their behaviors, they are still learning. They need supervision and help. You as the parent are in the best position to provide help to your child.

Adequate supervision of your child means your child can continue to participate in a full and active lifestyle, This is essential to assist with behavior change. 

Supervision and Safety Planning

1. Decrease the opportunity for behaviors to emerge by ensuring:

  • Adequate supervision of your child while interacting with other children. Supervision means your child is in the line of sight of an informed adult.
  • Discourage games your child may have used during the sexualised behaviour.
  • Your child is sleeping in their own bedroom.

2. Teaching sexual safety and privacy rules

  • Development of house rules with all family members, regarding privacy, bathing, toileting and nudity.
  • Reinforcement of these in the school setting.
  • Consideration of referring siblings residing in the family home to SECASA for protective behaviour education.

3. Checking in with you child

  • Spend time talking with your child about their feelings, both positive and negative, and their problems.
  • Discuss, educate and reinforce strategies developed in counselling, with your child, emphasising open communication and safe ways to express their feelings.

4. Interrupt and redirect misuse of power and problem sexual behaviours

  • Give clear messages about privacy and personal boundaries.
  • Interrupt and identify the impact the behavior has or could have on others.
  • Discuss with and educate your child with appropriate ways of expressing themselves, rather than acting out with problem sexual behaviours.
  • Discourage bossiness or aggression in your child in their interactions with other children.
  • Encourage your child to give their best rather than be the best or the first in the activities.

5. Support your child

  • By staying calm when intervening and talking with your child shows support and encouragement.
  • Role modeling healthy boundaries, communication and expression of feelings.
  • Giving praise and encouragement for your child’s efforts.

6. Limit experiences that increase sexual thoughts

  • Avoid exposure to violent, pornographic or sexually explicit material.
  • Interrupt sexual jokes or stories that detail harm to others.
  • Give clear consistent messages about what is sexually acceptable and appropriate.
  • If you are unsure seek professional help and support.

Where to get help?

  • SECASA crisis line (24 hrs) (03) 9594 2289
  • DHS Child Protection Southern Region 1300 655 795
  • DHS Child Protection After Hours 13 12 78

Additional sources of information


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