I have seen a few posts around Facebook lately about parents using correct anatomical terms such a penis and vagina. As a nurse I try to use the correct anatomical names and I want to teach my daughter the correct terms. There are many reasons I feel this is important.
First of all, I think it is important to teach kids proper names because it helps in the cases of sexual abuse. If a child says “he touched my no-no parts” we can infer what the means, but if a child says “he touched my penis (or vagina)” we know what the child means. We can still tell children they are “private parts” and no one should touch them, but knowing the correct terms will help if your child is ever sexually abused.
Second, if they know the proper terms it will help them to share medical problems they might be having. It will help them to tell medical professionals exactly what is going on and to pinpoint the problem. For example, if a girl says her private parts hurt that could be anywhere, including her vagina, vulva, urethra, or even anus, but if she knows the proper terms, she can specifically say that her vagina hurts, then it is easier for us a medical professionals to figure out what is going on.
Teaching kids the proper terms also helps them learn they have ownership over their body and increases self-image and increases confidence. Our culture shows the false perception that that sexual assault is the result of promiscuity. When they know they own their body they will be more likely to report sexual abuse and speak up when they feel consent has been violated, and they will be less likely to violate that cash.
Also, all kids will eventually have to go through sexual education or health class. I promise you in these classes the teach will say “penis” and “vagina” and not “peanut” or “peach” (as my parents called them). If we teach children the proper terms they will be less likely to laugh or snicker in class. I remember in 6th grade my teacher went around the class made us all say penis and vagina until we stopped snickering.
In the end, I will teach my daughter and any other children I have the proper terms. To be honest, I don’t see the point of using cute terms for kids and I want her to know her body. We call an arm an arm, and a toe a toe, so I don’t see why penis, vagina, vulva, testicles, or breasts should be any different. Maybe this is the pediatric nurse in me, but I feel that it will be just as easy. Obviously at 18 months we are not having conversations about every body part, but if she points to her vagina, I will call it a vagina, just like when she points to her belly I call it a belly.
How about you? What did you, or will you, teach your children?