Private Body Parts
What children should know
Children should know which parts of the body are private parts. Children should be able to use correct anatomical terms when referring to private parts of the body: penis and testicles (for boys), vagina and vulva (for girls), nipples (for girls), bottom/anus and mouth (for boys and girls).
Why this is an important part of child sexual abuse prevention
Understanding that some parts of the body are private helps the child to grasp the concept of the body rules. Giving children the language to name their private parts helps the child understand that these are an important part of their body, just as an arm or a leg is an important part of their body. It helps give a sense of body ownership. Using correct anatomical terms leaves no room for ambiguity if your child wants to tell you or someone else (e.g. the police or a doctor) something about that body part.
Research has shown that teaching children the anatomical terms for their private body parts helps prevent sexual abuse. This is because children who use incorrect (slang) language to describe their body parts can be easily misunderstood when they try to tell someone about the abuse. Removing the stigma associated with using the correct language helps to challenge secrecy surrounding abuse, and shows children that we are comfortable discussing issues that are ‘sexual’ by nature.
Ideas for having conversations on this concept
This section can be the most confronting for some parents. However this is the time that you can show your child that you are able to have a conversation with them about sensitive issues. If your child senses that you are uncomfortable it is okay to say “yeah this is a bit funny isn’t it, but we are going to keep talking about this because it is important to me that you understand that your body is your own and to use the correct language to describe your private parts”.
- Talk to your child about private body parts. Expect that they (and you) will find this awkward or funny!
- Encourage your child to say all the names of their private parts. You may like to start this off to make your child more comfortable. Try not to be angry with your child if they say a word you feel is inappropriate. The idea here is that we open up the lines of communication with our children. Be patient.
- Teach them the correct anatomical terms for their private parts.
- Use an anatomical diagram of the human body and get your child to point to the appropriate parts of the body.
- Have your child point to the parts of their body (outside their clothes) referred to by each of the anatomical terms when prompted.
- Draw a life size cut out on butcher paper of your child. Label all the places on the body in anatomical terms and make clothes out of coloured paper to cover the private places.
- Talk to your child about body ownership, “you are the boss of your body” therefore “your body belongs to you”. “You have the right to keep your private parts private”. “You don’t touch other people’s private parts and don’t let others touch yours”.