Describing your child’s body as a “special gift,” can help develop a positive body image at a very early age…before they become influenced by media and unrealistic societal norms! Make it a game and talk about different body parts and all the wonderful things they can do. For example-their feet allow them to run, jump, dance, play sports, wear their favorite shoes etc. etc. Ask what their favorite body part is and why? It can change daily or over time. Ask if there are any body parts they wish were different and why? Find ways to turn negative body images/ideas into positives so they can learn at a young age to accept themselves just as they are-SPECIAL and UNIQUE – PERFECTLY IMPERFECT!
As for the part of their body covered by their underwear, “private parts” is acceptable terminology for most conversations. But experts agree, young children should be taught the correct anatomical names for their private parts (penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, buttocks, anus, breast) instead of family nicknames. Why? Because it can help dispel the idea there’s something “funny” about their private parts but more importantly, it can help prevent miscommunication if inappropriate/unwanted touching is disclosed. A perpetrator may talk about private parts differently than your family nickname which may cause you to miss the importance of a child saying “I didn’t like it when he/she touched my cookie!”
It’s normal for kids to giggle when they hear the word underwear and it’s fun to play around with different ways of saying it (loudly, softly, fast, slow) and explain their private parts need an extra layer of protection (underwear) because of the “important job” they have – going potty. Talk about other body parts … brain, heart, lungs, bones etc. and point out the important jobs they have and how they’re “inside” their body because they need extra protection too!
You spend days, weeks, sometimes months potty training your child so in addition to encouraging them with “good job” be sure to let them know it’s an “important job” too. If they/we didn’t go “potty” everyday, several times a day, their/our bodies could get very sick. “Going potty” is the only function/job kids truly understand about their private parts. Which is why it’s should be the primary reason they are taught to respect their private parts and never allow others to touch them (except for hygiene or medical purposes). Discuss other “personal” habits like nose picking and nail biting as PRIVATE, meaning for YOU only, and doing it to others or letting someone else do it to them (can you hear the groans …..eeeeeewwww, that’s gross) is NOT healthy and NOT appropriate! Empower your child by telling them they have the right to say NO to anyone who does not respect them, their body and the important job of their private parts AND it’s always OK to talk to you (or another trusted adult) if they have any questions or concerns about someones touches.
You can introduce the other very important job of their private parts as “where babies come from” especially if there’s going to be a new baby in the family, but a toddler/preschooler is never going to ‘fully comprehend’ that concept…liken it to discussing division and multiplication before they learn their numbers!! So keep it simple and stay with what they know…private parts are for peeing and pooping and that means NO ONE but me should touch them!!!
Every child needs potty training- Every child deserves “private training!”
Until next time, with love and respect for all children,