Teaching kids about body parts and body autonomy is important and part of our jobs as parents.
It is normal for boys and girls to be very private when it comes to their private parts. Some are not and that is also normal. Some kids by nature develop natural guarding or shyness for their genital privacy while a sibling in the same household could be more open! Either way this can vary child by child. If your child is two+ and they are sensitive and private, know that this is very common AND a great time to teach body ownership.
Penis, vagina and vulva are not bad words.
You should teach your child correct body part names and make sure they understand if they don’t want to be touched, it’s ok. Eliminate cutesy names for genitalia by 2 years of age (honestly they never need cutesy names). We don’t call our ears our earsies, wearsies or toggle woggle so don’t need cutesy names for genitalia, either. We should normalize, penis, vagina, vulva! They’re not bad words. It’s human anatomy. This is important for communication if someone were to inappropriately touch. Also, if you show discomfort speaking about these things then they will as well. We want to normalize these things and remind our children not to be ashamed of them. Penis, vagina and vulva are parts of art of our bodies, and private parts ARE private.
Is it okay if my child is shy?
If your child is shy, you can say things like, “I see you don’t want Mommy touching your scrotum and penis. That’s okay. Here. I think you can clean it.” Then, make it fun or silly and not out of frustration. Continue the conversation and say, “Here’s a washcloth. You can clean yourself.” Walk them through patting themselves or cleaning. If they scream and cry and don’t want to, say, “That’s okay. We can try again tomorrow.”
If you do see visible areas that need to be cleaned, VERBALIZE the entire time. This is what I do in my office. Allow them the opportunity to do it themselves FIRST before you check to make sure if they need help. Usually, they don’t need a major scrub or rub down there besides a normal bath.
Explain who can touch them – and who can’t.
It’s important to explain to your child WHO can touch them. You can say things like, “Mommy is touching because we are helping keep it clean. The doctor will sometimes look or touch to make sure you are okay, but I will be there. We don’t let anybody see our private parts without our permission or see or touch anybody’s without their permission.” This is important if they see you naked around the house. Which I know happens! You can say something like, “Mommy is naked in the bathroom and you see Mommy naked because Mommy is okay with that.”
Discuss what OK and NOT OK touches are.
Discuss what OK and NOT OK touches are—OK touch is if someone helps you when you fall and NOT OK is if it makes you scared or feel icky! Set the expectation that mommy will look there during diaper changes and baths to make sure everything is okay so they understand the WHY. Because yes, although we respect body autonomy we do have to look there as parents sometimes. Balancing this is key so they understand they have body autonomy but there are certain situations you may need to help/take a look. If you need more direction, please check out the article below.