Reasons why your child must know the actual names of their genitals
Penis, vulva, vagina, bottom. For many adults, especially in India, using these words can be painfully uncomfortable. Most of us have grown up with pseudo names for our private body parts like nunu, pipi, tushy and what not. While using these slangs makes conversations about our genitals less uncomfortable and adds a little bit of humor, it disfavours our children in various ways.
It is very understandable with the upbringing we had in asian countries where anything related to our private body parts is a big hush hush, right from keeping the diapers out of sight to hiding the sanitary napkins and condoms; that talking about our genitals can be embarrassing and hence we make up colloquial terms to address them in our conversations and also use these names to teach our children.
But when will we ever think about how it impacts our children when we teach them to call our hand a hand, our nose a nose but not teach them appropriately what truly their genitals are called?
This blog will talk about why we need to let go of the generational resistance towards addressing and teaching our children the scientific names of ALL of their body parts.
1] First things first, WHY NOT?
There can be no other possible explanation as to why we do not call a penis a penis and a vagina a vagina, etc other than that it is embarrassing. Sure our private body parts are private to us, but at least in private spaces we can address them as what they are actually called. In safe and appropriate spaces which could be with parents or an elder and around a doctor or while reporting an incident of possible abuse, children should be able to use mass-recognized terminologies for their genitals.
Will we let embarrassment miss out on our children being aware of their own bodies?
2] It is the most rational and healthy thing to do
Breast, nipples, scrotum, etc. are the scientific names of our body parts.
When right from the beginning we address the body parts with their scientific name, it becomes a point of origin of bringing a scientific attitude towards the life of the child and the family dynamic.
This rational attitude towards the body also makes things less complicated when children reach the various developmental stages.
And after all, These body parts are just as typical and healthy as other body parts – they just happen to be your private ones. They only need to be kept protected because they are sensitive.
3] Disassociates shame from these body parts
When we adults use and teach slang and pseudo names to children, we indirectly send a loud and clear message that as we cannot talk about these parts openly, there is shame associated with it. They can end up thinking that there is something wrong with their private body parts because their parents do not address them normally.
4] Children learn to respect their body and of others
When we accept and normalize the presence of private body parts of children, there is no space for them to associate shame and stigma with them. This will lead children to respect not only their genitals but their entire body. When they respect their entire body they will not let anybody else disrespect it or enter their personal space and they will put the appropriate efforts to keep it safe and healthy.
Moreover they will also respect the bodies of other people. Compassion towards self and others
5] Children will accept their body as a whole, as it is
Body image issues and its effects rule all the children more or less, no matter their appearance. Children right from a very young age experience self esteem and self confidence issues and one major tool that can help them with these issues is self awareness. Self awareness demands acceptance of oneself significantly. When rightly and age appropriately taught about their bodies, children start to accept themselves with their flaws, flaws that every human has. Acceptance of self for children can get very difficult when they are kept in the dark about some of their own body parts and their functions.
6] Reporting incidents of child sexual abuse become less difficult
One of the most important reasons why children MUST know the scientific names of ALL of their body parts and especially their private body parts is because it becomes easy to report a case of sexual abuse that a child might encounter. While reporting it informally then formally, children should be able to tell what body parts of theirs the abuser engaged with.
Reporting it to authorities becomes difficult when slang words like pipi and puchie are used as these words do not have a definite meaning and are not used universally. And in this case the child might be asked to point out the body parts the abuser engaged with, and this can be uncomfortable for the child and the parents. When you teach the right names of genitals it empowers kids with the right words that can help them report at the right time. Especially young kids who have just learnt language are often the most neglected victims of CSA. This scientific labeling of genitals empowers such innocent kids the moment they learn to speak. And don't forget, reporting will prevent repeating of the CSA !
7] They will look at their genitals beyond shame or as sexual objects
Creating this secretive conjecture around the private body parts of the children is only going to make things complicated and selectively informative for them. Using non-scientific names to address the body parts of your children conditions them to associate these parts with shame and limits their functions as organs made for the act of sex. But our private body parts organs do so much more for us than we reduce their functioning to. When explained from a scientific point of view, like we would explain the functions of our calf or foot, children understand the importance and functioning of their private body parts and organs as a part of their entire body; they understand the functions of their private body parts as a crucial opening of the body from where the waste leaves the body, and their other functions.
8] It's the right of the children to know about their body correctly
It is a basic right of the children in their growing years to correctly know the name of all of their body parts. And as parents or caregivers, the responsibility to rightly educate the children about the same lies on them. Age appropriate introduction and awareness of the body and the changes that happen at a particular developmental stage should be talked about with the children till they become adults. This can save the children a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about their bodies as it shows new signs of development gradually during the growing and puberty years.
9] Helps establish a foundation for prevention of child sexual abuse
Equipping children with usage of appropriate words to address their body parts and knowledge about them plays a significant role in establishing the foundation of child sexual abuse prevention.
Talking about the private body parts with no shame and guilt also paves a way for children to gain confidence about their body and for adults to start the conversation of body safety and consent. This makes children less vulnerable to child sexual abuse as offenders looking for their targets are less likely to pick confident, educated and informed kids who talk openly with their parents about their bodies and do not keep secrets from their parents. At Cactus Foundation we come across so many stories of abuse where children want to share their stories of sexual abuse and they do try to talk about it. Unfortunately, in absence of clear and direct communication kids are often unheard and misunderstood.
10] Helps break stereotypes and stigma
There are a lot of stereotypes associated with the sexual organs and features that have been being passed down for generations. Having an open conversation about these topics is important to not only let go of the stigma but also to avoid the gruesome impact these stereotypes can potentially have on the children and the society. This open dialogue cannot happen without calling spade a spade that is calling the private body parts, the sexual organs by their actual names. It also helps build the right belief system about body safety , sex , intimacy that is based on rational approach. It is an important aspect of teaching our kids to be assertive.
11] Promotes effective communication between parents and children
Parents talking about genitals with their children in a positive manner creates a healthy and happy dynamic between parents and their children. It helps increase the bond between children and parents and make open, non secretive communication a norm in the family. Your teenagers will look up to you to find answers to their questions about changes in body, hormones and feelings. Isn't it important that we need to do all things possible to have a strong connection with our kids that facilitates effective, healthy and open communication. In an age where strong internet connections are a trend and anyone can ask any question and get thousands of answers, its really important to start doing things that are important before they become urgent.
12] Ensures a strong start to raising aware kids with body autonomy and healthy sexual attitudes
While raising kids parents must understand the importance of strong foundations. When you begin by labeling the body parts with appropriate scientific and medical names, you are setting the foundation for healthy sex education and sexual attitudes. As adults, parents and teachers we cannot shy away from such an important aspect of growing up. Kids who are taught the right medical and scientific names of their genitals learn the higher concepts related to sex , sexuality, gender, intimacy, interpersonal relationships in a very open, receptive and rational way. This also helps you to easen up and develop a healthy culture at home that helps in connecting, engaging and initiating difficult conversations while your child grows up.
The importance of children knowing the actual names of ALL of their body parts cannot be emphasized enough. Having an open and accurate conversation with a child while they’re young helps parents confidently support their children through puberty.
And afterall, knowledge is empowering. It helps children to take ownership of their body from the very beginning and makes things easier for them as they grow old.