thoughts, feelings, and sensations are proper or improper creates a breeding ground for guilt andshame.Thoughts are thoughts, and sensations are sensations. Period! When the moral judgment is removed,individuals are able to acknowledge and experience their authentic life-energy freely. They do notneed to be acted out inappropriately. Healthy decisions and expressions of sexuality are more likelywhen the defensive mechanisms of denial and repression are no longer necessary. The unspeakablebecomes spoken, and families can become a model for shaping healthy behavior instead of damaging behavior.
Let’s look at two critical stages of child development: early childhood and adolescence. Somewhere
between the ages of four and six, children feel a special bond and attraction to their opposite-sexparent. In fact, this phenomenon is so universal that the Greek tragedian Sophocles portrayed theunfortunate consequences of this unresolved dilemma in the plays
. (Of course, with blended and same-sex households, these stages may show up differently.)
Daughters, especially around the age of five, routinely “fall in love” with their dads, as do little
boys with their moms. This is a normal, healthy stage of development. Children of this age will
“flirt” with the parent of the opposite sex. This is not flirting in the adult, sexual sense, but rather adevelopmental “practicing.” In other words, the kinds of behaviors that will later form the repertoire
of adolescent, peer flirtations are first elicited and tested at home where it is supposed to be safe.
This is the time when little girls will tell their fathers, “I love you, Daddy. I want to marry you andhave a baby.”
At this delicate, vulnerable age, what is needed to foster healthy development is for the father to
tenderly say (and mean) something like: “I love you too, sweetheart, but Daddy’s married to
Mommy. When you grow up, you can marry someone special just for you, and if you want, you canhave child
ren with him.”
Often, what happens instead is that this innocent (and it is truly innocent) practicing is misread and
handled poorly. Instead of the parent’s response helping the child with their emerging sexuality, it
resembles something more like that of
a lover, promoting their “special” relationship. Playfulflirtations can then result in awkward and inappropriate responses by the parent. This “courting”
behavior can be quite confusing, and often feels overwhelming to the child and may be frighteningto the parent as well. This is a place where well-defined generational boundaries are so important,and are instead frequently weak in adults who were themselves sexually traumatized as children.If these lessons are not learned early on, it is likely that a sudden fracture of the parent-childrelationship will occur at the next important stage of sexual development
adolescence. At thistime the parent is confronted with a blossoming young lady or man who looks like the spouse thatthey fell in love with some years earlier
but perhaps even more beautiful or handsome. If theparents are not comfortable with their own sexuality and warmly erotic with each other, this sudden
attraction to their teenager may cause what’s known as incest panic.
Particularly in the case of father-daughter relationships, the father is drawn to his offspring in waysthat the possibility of acting them out seems real and threatening. Out of this fear, he suddenly cuts