At WellStop we provide assessment and a range of treatment services to children aged 5-12 years who have concerning sexualised behaviours and their families. The service aims to work closely with the child's family and focuses on building on strengths within the child and their family. Our services include:
Child and Family Education
Therapy is tailored to meet the needs of the child and their family
The child will stop their concerning sexualised behaviour and learn appropriate safe behaviour.
Adults supporting the child (family, whanau, caregivers, teachers) will learn ways to deal with the concerning sexualised behaviour and how to encourage appropriate behaviour.
Adults supporting the child will learn to establish safe environments for the child.
Other family concerns will be dealt with holistically.
Often people have questions they may need to ask about their young person's behaviours, influences, how adults respond to these behaviours and might also be seeking information about the Children's service assessment and treatment process.
What is normal sexual behaviour in children?
All children develop sexual behaviour and experience sexual learning in childhood.
Adults who observe sexual behaviour in children should consider whether it is within the normal range.
Even if the behaviour is within the normal range the child should still receive some information or correction as to appropriate behaviour, age, time and place.
Examples of normal sexual behaviour in children aged 5-7 years include:
I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
Self touching- including masturbation.
Playing doctors and nurses/ mummies and daddies.
Toilet talk and telling dirty jokes or songs.
Kissing/ holding hands.
Examples of normal sexual behaviour in children aged 8-12 years include:
Comparing genitals with peers.
Kissing and flirting.
Sexual talk and jokes with peers.
Should adults just ignore these behaviours in children if they are considered normal?
Although the behaviours may be within the normal range, they may not be appropriate for the setting (i.e. showing genitals in the school playground).
If it is not appropriate for the setting, it is recommended that adults view this as a teachable moment. It is an opportunity to teach children about boundaries and the difference between private and public behaviour.
If you would like advice on how to respond, please feel free to contact WellStop staff.
When is sexual behaviour in children a problem? It is a problem when:
It puts the child at risk, interferes with other developmental tasks, interferes in relationships, violates rules, is harmful to the child, or if the child believes the behaviour is a problem.
Others feel uncomfortable, the behaviour occurs in the wrong time or place, the behaviour conflicts with family or community values, or the behaviour is harmful.
It elicits complaints from other children.
When the behaviour does not respond to correction.
When the behaviour is part of a pattern of behaviour that suggests the child does not understand boundaries.
Sexual behaviour is harmful if it involves other children without consent, or if two children are not equal, or if one child is pressured or coerced.
If my child has sexualised behaviour, does that mean that they have been sexually abused?
Not necessarily, although there is some correlation between children with problem sexual behaviour and having been sexually abused, it is important to note that the sexual behaviours of a child are not sufficient to make a diagnosis of sexual abuse.
65 % children with sexual behaviour problems have no history of sexual abuse. There are other factors that are related to the development of sexual behaviour problems in children.
What influences children's behaviour?
There are many influences on children's sexual behaviour.
Children with sexualised behaviour are more likely to have been abused themselves in some way.
Not all sexual behavior problems stem from sexual abuse.
Age appropriate sexual behaviours can become disrupted in children for a number of reasons.
These can include:
Exposure to adult sexual activity.
Exposure to sexually explicit material (internet, pornography, videos).
Physical abuse and emotional neglect.
Witnessing violence and abuse.
Won't they just grow out of it?
If children get the right guidance and support from the adults around them they will likely stop their sexually harmful behavior.
Some children are not able to stop, and these children may benefit from attending the WellStop Children's Service.
We know that 50 % of children who present at age 11-12 with sexualized behaviour have engaged in sexualised behaviour before 10 years of age.
We also know from experience that a significant number of adolescents who come to WellStop and are assessed as being high risk, have a history of sexualised behavior before age 10.
We believe that intervening early is the best option.
What language is best used to describe/discuss these behaviours in children? The following language is helpful because it describes behaviour, rather than labelling the child:
Sexually harmful behaviour.
Harmful sexual behaviour.
Concerning sexual behaviour.
Problematic sexual behaviour.
Sexual behaviour problems.
We suggest using the term child who was harmed rather than the term victim.
We strongly advocate that adults do not label children as sexual offenders, sexual abusers or molesters.
These terms relate to adults and occasionally youth, and are not appropriate to use for children. It is appropriate however to use language that describes the child's behaviour. (as above)
How does WellStop assess children with sexual behaviour problems? We meet with the child, his or her family, whanau and other significant parties (e.g. school if the sexualised behaviour is happening in this environment) We establish whether the sexual behaviour meets the criteria for:
Normal child sex play.
Sexually reactive behaviour. Children who have been sexually abused or exposed to highly sexualised environments may themselves behave in a sexualised manner.
Mutual sexual behaviour. Some children engage in adult like sexual behaviours with other children but do not use force or threats.
Sexualised behaviour that is coercive involves force or harms the child another person.
What does the WellStop treatment programme for children involve? We offer individualised treatment plans that are developed to meet the needs of the child and their family. We believe that the earlier the child and their family can get treatment the easier it is for them to change their behaviour. This reduces the harm caused by problems getting worse over time. Individualised treatment programmes may include a combination of the following:
Child centred therapy.
Social work support.
Collaboration with other agencies involved with the child (e.g. School).
Treatment with children tends to be a brief intervention and can range from:
Very brief intervention (1-4 sessions).>
3- 6 months of treatment (depending on need).
Regular review meetings are held every three months with everyone involved (family, young person, other agencies) to review progress and set further goals and plans if needed.
Please feel free to contact the Children's Services Team Leader if you have any concerns about a child or you can contact us on (04) 566-4745.
Contacting Children's Service
Anyone is welcome to contact the WellStop Team Leader/ Branch Managers to discuss concerns or make referrals for children.
Referrals come from a wide range sources including CYF, schools, health professionals, social workers, Special Education, whanau, parents and caregivers.
WellStop has funding contracts with the Department of Child, Youth and Family for children meeting certain criteria. This means we can receive referrals from family, whanau and community.
All other referrals need to funded, either by families or referring agencies.
Please don't hesitate to contact us to discuss all options. You can speak to the Children's Services Team Leader to discuss any questions you might have or you are welcome to download a Children's Services Referral Form from the referrals page here.