I’d like to start by saying these are simply my personal choices and that you know best what works for your family.
Pee pee. Flower. Little man. Minnie. Willy winkie. Fanny. Snake. Lady bits. Cookie. Sausage. Cupcake. Twinkle. Hoohah. Bits. Fireman’s hose. Coochie. Dingle dangle…
The list could go on and on but when it comes to teaching Stella her body parts, her head is her head, her hand is her hand and her vagina is her vagina. Recently I’ve been met with some confusion over my choice to teach anatomically correct genetilia names. I was even questioned about the embarrassment this may cause Stella, or her peers, when she inevitably says it at nursery or school. Therefore I think it’s important to highlight the many benefits of teaching correct anatomy; benefits that- in my eyes- far outweigh a little embarrassment.
1. Avoids shame
Children are perceptive little things. They very quickly realise that their ‘flower’ isn’t actually a flower, but a pet name. Their developing brains quickly connect the dots and realise that mum or dad doesn’t really want to talk about those parts. Our discomfort with the topic becomes their discomfort. Studies show that parents who use correct names have more open relationships with their teenage children as they extract any shame surrounding the topic early on.
2. It deters abusers
Also, many studies agree that abusers–who often rely upon a fantasy world by turning their abuse into a game– are deterred by children who use anatomically correct names for genitalia. By using correct terms, children put themselves in a position of power and remove any sense of a ‘game’. Also, children who are taught correct names are more likely to report abuse as there is already an open dialogue about these topics at home. I understand that many people feel confident that their child will never fall victim to abuse, and while it is a truly awful thought, it is important to remember that around 1 in 20 children in the UK are sexually abused. For me, any tool that could avoid Stella falling prey to this is worth adopting.
3. It helps discuss puberty & sexuality later on
Admittedly this is something I’ll have to work on as Stella grows. My Catholic school sexual education peaked when we studied “Chapter 7” for a week in the first year of high school and completed a dot to dot and labeled it with “uthera” and “testes”. Also, I’d sooner walk on hot coals than endure a steamy sex scene in the presence of my parents! So why choose to parent in this more open way? Of course “sex positive parenting” might not be for everyone but, for me, society has transformed so much in recent years and I’d like my parenting to reflect these changes. I hope to establish a very open and honest relationship with Stella which means I can’t belittle the importance of our early discussions by using pet names.
What does this look like in our home?
From around 3 months old I have referred to Stella’s vagina. Vulva is more anatomically correct, but I only recently learned this myself. Now, after using the toilet, she tells me that she needs to “wipe her vagina”… If I help I always ask permission first- as silly as this may seem it is important to me that she understands this boundary from as early as possible. At Bath times, I explain cleanliness to Stella… I always tell her that people have naturally smelly bits that need a proper wash. She can now tell me that her smelly bits are: teeth, pits, back bum, vagina and feet. Stella also has anatomically correct dolls, we often bath these dolls and Stella will point at her boy doll and says, “penis”.
I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing why I’ve chosen to use anatomically correct names for genitalia. As with all parenting choices, do what works best for you but be informed. As always I welcome all feedback and would love to hear what you do in your homes.
Love Paula xxx