People use a lot of odd and confusing names for male and female genitalia. From the extremely vague “particulars” and the misleading “Tootsie roll” to the inexplicable “hooters” and the architectural “knockers”, it’s no wonder children get confused. While using inaccurate names for body parts may seem unimportant, child psychologists and educators working to prevent child sexual abuse say that it’s actually very important for children to know the correct anatomical names for all the parts of their bodies.
There are a number of reasons why giving your children the correct vocabulary matters. First, euphemistic nicknames for the genitals gives the impression that these parts of the body are something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Using the correct anatomical name for all parts of the body helps your children build a positive body image and opens the door for an honest, open dialogue with you on any questions they have about their bodies or sexuality.
Knowing the correct names for genitalia and understanding that these parts of their bodies are private and are under their own control can also help protect children from sexual predators. Teach your children that anything that’s covered by a swimsuit is a private part of their body and no one has the right to touch those areas. One area where this explanation can get a bit confusing for children is in terms of their needing help with using the toilet and bathing and exams from the doctor. Make sure you take the time to make this clear and ask your child if he or she has any questions.
If your child is the victim of a sexual predator, knowing the correct names of genitalia can help you and the police have a clearer understanding of what occurred. Some experts note that knowing the accurate names of all body parts make children feel less reticent to tell a family member or trusted adult about the abuse.
How to start the conversation
What you teach your children depends on their age. If you’re not sure what the appropriate age is to start this discussion with your child, talk with your pediatrician. If you’re uncomfortable with the anatomically correct terminology, practice before you talk with your kids. If they sense that you’re not comfortable, they’ll wonder if they should be uncomfortable with the subject as well.
There are many different ways you can start the conversation with your children, just don’t make it a big deal. If your child comes to you with a question about his or her body, answer accurately and honestly. If they ask about where their new baby cousin came from, tell them the truth. The amount of detail you provide will depend on your child’s age. It’s also important for your kids to know that they have the right to say no to any type of contact that makes them uncomfortable, whether it’s a hug from a relative or being picked up by mom.
The best thing you can do is give your children the self-confidence to say no to unwanted contact and to let them know that you’re always available to talk and answer questions about any subject without judgment.
Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan on Facebook and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit RAACE.org today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.