From our counseling department on hygiene – self-stimulating.
First of all, don’t worry: the majority of young children sometimes self-stimulate for physical and emotional comfort, especially when they’re tired. Children are curious about everything, including their bodies, and self-stimulation is normal. As long as it fits with your cultural and religious beliefs as a parent, all you need to do is give your child a simple lesson in privacy:
Children should be made aware that they should not touch their “private parts” in public. “Private parts” are any place that their swimsuit covers. Tell your son or daughter that you understand what s/he’s doing feels nice, but that certain activities are best done in private. Suggest s/he waits until alone in his/her room if s/he feels like touching him/herself. Ask him/her to help you devise a signal to get his/her attention if s/he forgets and starts to touch him/herself in public. If s/he ignores those gentle reminders, think about why his/her need for comfort and self-stimulation are overriding your request. Is something upsetting going on? Emotional distress caused by a recent move or separation from a beloved relative or friend, for instance, could lead your child to soothe in this way. However you choose to react, make sure not to punish your child, because this sends the message that such behavior (and the person indulging in it) is “bad.” If the behavior continues more than a few weeks or becomes more frequent or intense, ask your child if s/he’s touching him/herself because s/he’s uncomfortable or something hurts — a health problem could be to blame.