Penis & Vagina
(why you should teach your kids the real name of their private parts)
Yes, you read it right. Take a deep breath with me and let me explain to you why. Rather than bombard you with multiple statistics and numbers, I’m going to share my reasons as a mom why I teach my children the correct names for their private parts. Here are my reasons:
Personal Safety: It is never too early to talk about personal safety with your children. Talking about boundaries, appropriate ways to show affection, and how does it feel when someone makes them feel uncomfortable and then giving them words to use WHEN they feel unsafe is crucial for ongoing communication about safety with your child. You might be thinking, Esther, nice wording (you must know your stuff, insert rolled eye emoji here) but what does it actually look like for little kids? I find that bedtime is the perfect opportunity to ask your child about how they are feeling and if there is anything they need help with. This allows children to make a connection that my feelings matter and my parents care about my feelings. Most child victims of sexual abuse are afraid or scared to tell their parents what is happening. My hope is that my children will feel safe to come to me and ask for help.
Discuss Welcome and Unwelcome Touches: Welcome touches are touches that WE LIKE and WE WANT to share, like a hug or a high five. Unwelcome touches are touches WE DON’T like and WE DON’T want to share. Explain if anyone gives you an unwelcome touch on your private parts it is never ok and we need to ask for help. I have been asking Emily if it’s ok for mommy to give her a hug since she was a toddler, and that might seem strange. Why would her MOM need permission to touch her? I have been modeling behavior for her, she has a choice because it’s her body. The first time she told me, “I don’t feel like hugging right now,” I shed a little tear and a victory jump all at once. Even as a 4-year old she knows, SHE can choose.
Private Parts: We need to use words that don’t confuse children. It’s very simple to just name them, you don’t have to explain their function ( at least not yet, that can wait a few years). We need to discuss that it is never ok for anyone to give them an UNWELCOME touch and to name safe adults they can ask for help. Will your child randomly say Penis and laugh? YES, (she asked me one day while changing her brother’s diaper, what’s that? ). Will strangers look at you weird at Target when your child declares to the whole aisle that her Vagina is itchy? YES. Will your child feel comfortable discussing her body? YES. Will your child feel confident stating that she gets to choose about touches? YES, YES, YES! If you feel overwhelmed by all this information and feel like you need to move to a farm and don’t want to let anyone come near your child — you’re not alone. This is how I feel every day, but then again, I see the progress in the way my daughter communicates with me and it’s all worth it. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a list of some of my favorite books to discuss Personal Safety with kids. Kids are resilient little humans that can handle more than we give them credit for, so don’t be afraid, and let’s all say PENIS and VAGINA together.
Until Next Time,
Esther (Child Abuse Prevention Educator)