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Did Kissing My Brother when We Were Little Kids Damage him?

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From the U.S.: My brother is 14 now, I’m 21. When he was around 3 or 4, and I was about 10 (vague memory) he slept over in my room all the time. But one time, after I saw a movie where people kissed, I was curious. We often kissed on the lips but one night before bed I kissed him too long. I think I just plopped my open mouth on his lips, not knowing that it was really “sexual” or “romantic” but thinking I was “practicing” so I must have known it was weird. I think it lasted like 5 seconds, and i think he told me to stop.

Its difficult to remember the details because i was so young. I stopped immediately and never did it again, and we’ve had a great, close, normal relationship since then. We never talked about it, and I don’t know if he remembers or not. But he’s 14 now, he’s had a girlfriend for about a year, and they don’t kiss or really touch. He’s come to me about having sexual feelings about other boys, so I’m hoping that’s why he doesn’t get all excited about kissing this girl, or he just has high standards, but I don’t know. I’m scared that it’s because of what I did.

He’s never seemed fearful around me, in fact we have a very strong sibling bond and he comes straight to me about things that are bothering him. I just don’t know if this is something I should ever bring up, if that would do more damage. I feel terribly guilty and think about it often since the memory resurfaced. I would appreciate any insight.

Did Kissing My Brother when We Were Little Kids Damage him?

Answered by on -

A.

Thank you so much for writing. I understand why you are concerned. There is so much in the news lately about the abuse of children by people they trust.

I reassure you: Children generally experiment with romance and sexuality. Little ones pretend to be princes and princesses who “marry”.  Children from 2-6 years old to do things like look at or touch each other’s genitals or to try to see adults naked. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that this is normal. Young children are exploring their bodies and trying to figure out what all the mystery that surrounds privacy and nudity is about. Red flags go up when there is more than 4 years difference in age and/or when kids try to do something that mimics overt adult sexual behavior.

In your case, I wouldn’t identify your experience as ” overtly sexual”. Let’s review what you said: You were curious about what you were seeing on screen and tried what you saw for about 5 seconds. When your brother asked you to stop, you did. You immediately understood that you had crossed some boundary. You never did it again. That isn’t abuse. At age 10, you were curious about what adults find so interesting about kissing and you tried it out with someone you felt safe with. But you were already aware, maybe not quite consciously, that there are “rules” about who it’s permissible to kiss on the mouth. You had already somehow absorbed that cultural taboo.

I’m most interested in what you didn’t do: You didn’t pressure your brother. You didn’t use your size and the fact you were older to force him nor did you manipulate him. You didn’t get pleasure from pushing a boundary and you didn’t repeat the behavior. That tells me that your behavior was merely experimental and not intended to be abusive. Those are the things that abusers do.

I wouldn’t worry about your brother’s behavior with his girlfriend. He is well within the range of normal. Kids that age are just beginning to pair off. Sometimes claiming to have a boyfriend or girlfriend but keeping it platonic is a way to avoid peer pressure to be in a relationship when they aren’t quite ready. He is also beginning to explore his own sexuality which includes asking the question about who he is most attracted to. Such questioning usually goes on for a number of years and is perfectly normal.

I think remembering the childhood incident is a reflection of your own developing moral code and your sisterly love for your brother. I do think that sharing your concern right now is more for your own benefit than your brother’s so do consider what you hope to gain from it. If it is to only make yourself feel better about it, I think you should leave him out of it. Just give yourself credit that, at only 10, you understood that kissing your brother wasn’t appropriate.

If you are concerned that he is worried about it — and since you have such a strong sibling bond — you could bring it up as something you regret but that you understand now that at ages 10 and 4, you were copying what you were seeing, not doing something incestuous.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Did Kissing My Brother when We Were Little Kids Damage him?

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Did Kissing My Brother when We Were Little Kids Damage him?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/07/01/did-kissing-my-brother-when-we-were-little-kids-damage-him/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Jun 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 30 Jun 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.