Parent of Two Kids Involved in an Incestuous Relationship

What should I do now that I've discovered that two of my children have been engaging in sexual activities with one another? Needless to say, my spouse and I are shocked beyond words. Where do we go from here?

First, we want you to know that our hearts go out to you in the midst of this difficult situation. The emotions you’re experiencing are completely normal under the circumstances. So is your confusion over what to do next.

To a great extent, the action you take will depend on the ages of your children. It’s also important to think carefully about what you mean by “engaging in sexual activities.” If your kids are both small, and if they’re simply “exploring” or “playing doctor,” you may simply need to give them some age-appropriate sex education. Sexuality is a central part of life, and it’s only natural for children to want to know about it. Curiosity is normal and should be expected. Sexual touch, on the other hand, is a more serious matter. It can lead to complications. In a case like this, the best solution is to stay current with good sex education in the home and enforce healthy personal boundaries.

If your children are older, be aware that most states have age requirements governing reports of sibling incest. If they’re close in age, the authorities may be inclined to view this as a case of harmless “child experimentation.” On the other hand, if there’s as much as a four- or five-year age difference between them, the older child could be charged as a sexual offender. More importantly, these circumstances might indicate a pattern of behavior that will lead to further abuse of other victims in the future if left unaddressed. That’s why it’s in the best interests of all concerned that the facts be brought to light without delay.

If this is your situation, our first suggestion is that the entire family get some professional counseling. Try to engage the services of a licensed Christian psychologist who is specially trained in trauma care. It’s likely that this problem is a symptom of deeper issues within the family system. If so, these issues need to be addressed in a group setting. In the meantime, safety should be your first concern. We recommend that you make arrangements to separate the children until the issue can be satisfactorily resolved. You might send the older away one to stay with relatives for a while.

If it becomes apparent that the police or the Department of Social Services should be informed, we’d advise you to get in touch with them as soon as possible. For additional guidance, we suggest you contact the
National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-800-879-6682. In dealing with the Child Protective Services agency, we’d advise you to take a pro-active approach. To the best of your ability, show them that you’re willing to cooperate. There are no guarantees, of course. Still, case workers tend to be less aggressive and mistrustful when they sense that parents are caring, involved, and eager to assist their efforts as team players.

Focus on the Family’s Counseling Department can provide you with a list of referrals if you need assistance finding a qualified Christian therapist practicing in your area. They are also available to talk with you over the phone. Call us. Our staff counselors would be more than happy to come alongside you in any way they can.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Door of Hope: Recognizing and Resolving the Pains of Your Past

No Place to Cry: The Hurt and Healing of Sexual Abuse

The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

On the Threshold of Hope: Opening the Door to Healing for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Hush: Moving from Silence to Healing After Childhood Sexual Abuse

Caring for Sexually Abused Children: A Handbook for Families and Churches 

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA)

Symptoms of Children Who Are Victims of Sexual Abuse

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