From doodle to winky, from foo-foo to hoo-haw, there are endless euphemisms for our private parts. But experts warn that parents should refrain from using nicknames to describe body parts. And the reasons why may surprise you.
A vagina by any other name just doesn’t have the same effect.
This is the message that paediatricians and leading child advocacy experts want all parents to hear. And this is why parents are urged to teach children the real names of body parts straight away.
While it may be cute to hear your daughter call her vagina a ‘cookie’ or your son label his penis a ‘mickey’, it doesn’t have the same impact as the actual words.
Sexual abuse awareness
No parent wants to think about the prospect of their children being sexually targeted, but it does happen. And body awareness is one of the best ways to prevent any perpetrator from acting.
Dr. Bob Sege, director of the division of family and child advocacy at Boston Medical Center, explains that using real words “makes communication clearer because they can tell someone, ‘He put his penis in my vagina’.”
Jayneen Sanders, an advocate for Body Safety and Respectful Relationships Education, echoes this notion. “If a child says to a parent or teacher, for example, “XXXX touched my cookie,” this may be discounted. If the child says, “XXXX touched my vagina,” the child will be much more likely to be listened to and taken seriously.”
Furthermore, a perpetrator is less likely to act when a child is clearly able to identify his body parts.
“Potential abusers will be wary of the child who uses the correct names for the genitals because these are adult terms; and if the child does tell, adults will not easily dismiss the touch as ‘harmless fun’,” Sanders explains.
The medical implications
Body awareness doesn’t only help in instances of sexual abuse but every day medical problems too. Using the correct anatomy makes it much easier for children to explain if something hurts in this region.
It’s important for children as young as five to understand the terms vagina, penis, testicles, breasts and bottom. No beating around the bush – these are the names. And these are the names we need to start using.
Stopping the sense of shame
Both Sege and Sander also mention that sexual organs should not be seen as shameful or silly.
“Having pet names for your child’s private parts could inadvertently teach them that their private parts are places we shouldn’t speak about,” Sanders writes.
Children need to understand no part of the body is shameful or should be kept a secret. Scrap the ‘foo-foos’, ‘pee-pees’, ‘hoo-haws’ and ‘doo-dahs’. ‘Penis’ and ‘vagina’ will do just fine.
“Everything has a name,” Sege adds. “And they should use the correct name.”
What do you think? Do you use nicknames for your children’s private parts or do you stick to the correct terms?