Toddlers are inquisitive about sexual anatomy, so preparation is key
Whilst having our usual relaxing Sunday morning at home, I heard my 2 year old daughter casually walk into the bathroom where her daddy was having a shower. She asked him “What’s that daddy?”, to which he replied “It’s a Willy”. Great, that’s the male anatomy question out of the way!
Soon it’ll be my turn! What do I call my vagina? This got me wondering how important is it to decide what words to teach your children early on when it comes to the sexual anatomy.
I mentioned my daughter and her toddler milestones in my previous post but it seems that she is developing at such a quick pace it’s scary, but exciting at the same time and I want to make sure that I give her the right tools from the get go.
What I was taught…
When I was very young I asked my mum what my private parts were called. She simply replied with “it’s a vagina”. At the time I didn’t give it a second thought, so that is what I would call it until one day another girl at primary school laughed at me for calling it such a grown up word. That’s when I realised that there was a number of different names that were being used for the female sexual anatomy and none of them were ‘vagina’. To be honest, it wasn’t unitl my adult years that I heard the word vagina used and then it was at the GP’s, hospital etc.
I asked my mum again why she had said it was a vagina and her reply again was “because it is a vagina, I’m not calling it a silly name”. This is when I decided that fanny was a much more suitable word for me and from that day on, that is what used.
What’s the correct way of approaching this these days? What is the right terminology for sexual anatomy?
So, now I’m a mum of two girls myself and we’re potty training our eldest which means my daughter is now more aware of what is happening ‘down stairs’ so I know it’s only a matter of time before I am asked the question. What the hell do I say?
Looking for support and reassurance
Of course, as I always do when it comes to such complex situations I reached out to my friends on Instagram and asked them their thoughts on the matter. As predicted, there are many parents calling their sexual anatomy nice words such as; Bits, minnie, flower, foof etc but there were also many mums who commented on the fact that we, as a society are being asked to veer away from doing this due to complications if child abuse was ever to occur.
Now, I have lived a very sheltered life (which I am very grateful for) and I genuinely didn’t understand what this could mean so I looked into this a bit more to see why nicknames are frowned upon. I’ve shared my findings below in the hope that it will also help educate other parents facing the same predicament.
Sexual abuse language
Psychology Today wrote a blog in 2017 about how important it is for children to call their body parts what they are and for parents to use these sexual anatomy words to teach your children as soon as you can. The article simply states that “when kids know and are comfortable using standard terms for their private body parts, they’ve got one more protection against sexual abuse”. Going on to say that “when children feel awkward talking about certain body parts, they’re more likely to feel embarrassed about asking questions, and they’re less likely to tell you if someone is touching them inappropriately”.
A few mums on Instagram referred back to a sexual abuse story a few years back, which I decided to look up as it may be useful for you guys to also be aware of.
There is no such thing as anatomy being “age appropriate”
The Manchester Evening News published an article in 2019 which stated a social worker was begging parents not to give nicknames for their children’s sexual anatomy after a young girl, who was being sexually abused by her uncle was misunderstood when she approached her teacher. The young girl in question told her a story about her uncle and her cookie, which the teacher believed to be the biscuit ‘cookie’. It wasn’t until the same girl informed the same teacher, some time later that she had a rash on her ‘cookie’ that the teacher had realised what had been disclosed to her a lot earlier.
A universal word is needed to stop confusion and embarrassment
Now, although these situations may not be the case for every young child in the UK surely it’s time we all decided on either a one word equivalent to the very acceptable word ‘willy’ or we should all agree to stop being so prudish and use the word vagina or penis without any shame or embarrassment?
There’s no such thing as anatomy being “age appropriate”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde issued an article in 2017 asking parents to be more honest with their children when it came to speaking about their sexual anatomy. Their reasoning behind this plea was simply to stop the stigma of the words vulva, vagina and penis and children.
A website and video from NHSGGC’s sexual health service, Sandyford, encourages parents to tell it like it is and use the accurate terms, from an early age. Here is a fantastic short video which shows how the parents are the ones who suffer embarrassment rather than the children:
Children are simple human beings. So keep it simple.
To children, you calling their sexual anatomy a vagina, vulva or penis when they ask is just the same as when they ask the name for their elbow, toe nail or eye lashes. You tell them the answer, they accept that answer, keep it stored in their brain and they then go about their day and forget all about it.
It’s us adults, who seem to feel awkward around these words.
My decision as a mother…
I’ve decided that I will call it a vagina and penis/willy. I just hope my daughter doesn’t get mocked for this in school when she attends but if we all start doing this it will then become the norm for the whole of society. I will admit that I will find it unnatural to say these words at first as they are not words I use myself, but for the sake of any confusion I will. Then when she is older we can change it if she wishes.
So… Yet again, here I am admitting to you all that my mother was right.
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