This is the fourth article in a five-article series
Read the introductory 
Read articles for other age groups: 
Ages 0-4 (Unit 1)Ages 5-8 (Unit 2); Ages 9-12 (Unit 3); Ages 13-18 (Unit 4)

Understanding sexual development and integrity for children ages 9-12


As our children come to appreciate the value God places on them, they will also want to learn that self-care or stewardship becomes the appropriate response to our gratitude to God. This mindset will also help limit some of the heightened self-consciousness and ego associated with the preadolescent years. We want to maximize this time for sexual integrity, as our children are still free of the hormone rush that will soon awaken their sex drive.



  1. Continue to maintain the goals from prior units.
  2. To equip your child to take care of his body, mind, and spirit as a response of gratitude to God.


Iceberg zones:

  1. The body discussed in Unit 1 and the analytic mind discussed in Unit 2.
  2. The mind, with an emphasis on healthy emotions specific to sexual health and integrity. In this stage we want to help our children learn how to process their emotions in general, and any emotions that are specific to sexual health and integrity. Here, they will learn that emotions are one part of their system designed to inform or alert them so that good decisions can be made. Time spent now in the development of emotional hygiene will provide a good foundation for adolescence where emotions will be influenced by raging hormones.

What’s normal

  • Lots of questions
  • Masturbation at home or in other private places is not uncommon at this age, but should not become a compulsion or a means of medicating stress. In this stage, masturbation may not yet be linked to lust or sexual fantasy depending on the life experiences of your child.
  • Playing the roles of daddy and mommy can be innocent and harmless, but watch for role-playing that moves towards sexual themes. And be aware that playing "doctor" can have adverse effects on your child’s sexual development.

Developmental tasks for your child

  • Maintain the developmental tasks in Units 1 and 2.
  • To express an understanding of what it is to be spiritually engaged to Christ
  • To express an understanding of fidelity to Christ
  • Physical exercise
  • To exercise thought control: thought stopping and thought substitution
  • To offer and maintain personal accountability with the same-gendered parent. Boys need to bond with their dads, and girls with their moms. In a spiritual sense these relationships can begin to move beyond the parent-child relationship. While maintaining our responsibilities as parents, we can form bonds that allow us to serve as older brothers and sisters in the faith as we guide our younger siblings in their understanding and worship of God.

How to foster sexual health and integrity in this stage

  • Maintain the action points from prior units.
  • Share Bible stories/studies on sexuality.
  • Provide supervised social gatherings in your home.
  • Treat this as the second most significant time of bonding with the same- gendered parent.
  • Prepare your child for the onset of adolescence by talking with them about what to expect specific to their genders: females – menstrual cycle, breast development, pubic hair, etc., males – voice changes, facial hair, pubic hair, etc.
  • Remain sensitive in your dual role as both parent and older brother or sister in Christ.
  • Share any of your life stories that are age appropriate. Talk about how you felt then, and propose a better alternative if you are discussing a bad choice you made in the past.
  • Make your child aware of sexual abuse within the culture. Educate them, but don't frighten them with excessive parental concern. Talk with them about how to respond during and after such an event.

What to avoid

  • Maintain the action points from prior units.
  • "Caving in" to dating
  • Allowing immodest clothing
  • Movies with sexual themes
  • Older friends as their primary companions

What to do if you're concerned for your child’s development

  • Continue the action points provided in Units 1 through Three.

Rob Jackson is a licensed counsellor with Focus on the Family in the U.S. where he specializes in calls related to sexuality, marriage and parenting. Jackson has provided counselling services through his private practice since 1991 with an emphasis on helping individuals recover from sex addiction through integrated care that helps people mature and heal spiritually, psychologically and behaviourally.

Yolanda Brown is a licensed counsellor with Focus on the Family in the U.S., specializing in calls related to sexuality, marriage and parenting.

From © 2004 Rob Jackson. All rights reserved. International copyrights secured. Used by permission.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Join our newsletter

Advice for every stage of life delivered straight to your inbox