If you have a child who is over the age of 15 months I know that you have played the game "where’s your nose, where’s your eyes, where’s your ears?” It is a favorite for both parent and child as a toddler learns to point to various body parts. This game is also an important milestone in observing a child process language (receptive speech) and follow a command. But, what happens after your child has learned the usual body parts? In other words, what about the rest of their anatomy, specifically their “private parts”.
This topic came to mind the other day while I was seeing a little girl who was complaining of burning and itching with urination. This is not an uncommon problem in the 3-6 year old little girl set, and part of the physical exam involves looking at the child’s “private parts”.
As I begin talking to both the parent and child I always start off with the statement, “I am going to look at your vagina, and it will not hurt”. I also say “no one else should pull your underpants down and touch your vagina. The only people that can touch your vagina are you, your mother or father, and the doctor. These are your private parts, they are covered by your underwear and never let a stranger or even a friend pull down your underpants”.
It is important that this age child understand who may or may not pull down their underpants. But, with that being said, it is always amazing to me how many parents say, “we don’t call it a vagina or penis”, and on this occasion the mother said, “Dr. Sue means your bunny hopper!!” Okay, really? What in the world is a “bunny hopper?” Why would a parent not name the body parts correctly and where do these names for vagina and penis find their derivation?
Over the years I should have kept a list of “secret names” for vagina and penis as I have heard many. From the “princess patch” to “peanut” to “bo-hiney” you name it, there seem to be many parents who either are uncomfortable, or just cannot bring themselves to use the correct word for genitalia. Even Oprah has her word, “va-j-jay”. I submit that we go back to the correct anatomical name.
It is so important to teach your children the appropriate words for penis and vagina. Just as they learn eyes, ear, nose, knee, foot, toe they need to know the names of their “private parts”. If you begin with the correct words it never seems awkward or uncomfortable and is no different than naming any other body part. You will be surprised at how easily your child accepts these words, but uses them appropriately too. It is also important to name body parts correctly, especially if there is ever a question of inappropriate touching or abuse, in order that a child can correctly explain what happened.
I still have to laugh when I hear all of the different names a child hears when a parent discusses genitalia, it must be confusing. But regardless of what you name it, a penis and a vagina are private parts and need to be covered by our underpants, keep repeating that message to your child.
What do you think? Would love to hear from you!