A young child touching their privates is normal behavior.
This paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that children become increasingly sexual up to age 5
It goes on to state that self stimulating behavior such as touching privates while at home is observed in 60.2% of 2-5 year olds.
Below are some of the most common signs of sexual abuse:
- Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age.
- Not wanting to be left alone with certain people.
- Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe.
- Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics.
- Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of, such as thumb-sucking.
It goes without saying that this list is far from comprehensive. If you have been given no reason to believe that your child has been abused such as those listed above then you should treat this as normal behavior that he will grow out of as he comes to understand his body. You can be supportive by teaching him the right time right place for this kind of touching.
With my own children, I want them to understand the importance of bodily autonomy. For instance, when I bathe them, I ask them if they are okay for me to wash their privates. I explain to them that only they are allowed to touch their private area anyone else must first have their permission. I explain the kinds of situations that are appropriate as well and frame the question like this: "Who else is allowed to touch your privates?"
- Mommy and Daddy when they are giving me a bath.
- At the doctors when getting a check up.
I have also told them to come to me immediately if somebody else is trying to make them do something that they don't like. I remind them: "Mommy and Daddy will never be mad at you for telling us. We love you and want to take care of you." I feel like this is important because I have heard stories of abusers manipulating children by saying something like: "If you tell your parents, they will be so mad, or they won't love you anymore, or they will leave you." Its your job as a parent to show your children how to set healthy boundaries and its very important to create that safe space that's built on trust and understanding so that they feel comfortable coming to you to share their problems and concerns.
By your post it seems like you really want what is best for your child. I wish you the best of luck!