Cranky Parenting: Talking about Private Parts

Posted by: Maggie

Last night I was talking with a new friend about Eleanor and she remarked that preschoolers don’t have filters. They just say whatever comes to mind. That is absolutely the case with Eleanor. It’s something we’ve been having some issues learning to deal with lately, especially when talking about “private parts.”  We’re struggling with teaching her that some things are “private,” while still being honest and open and avoiding creating any kind of shame about her body. And I have to tell you this is tough!

We are super open about nudity in this house. We don’t cover up around Eleanor and we answer any question she has about her body or ours in as honest a way as possible. We don’t use cutesy names for body parts. A doctor on Oprah years ago recommended that sex education begin as early as possible, and that starts with using the proper names for body parts. Using silly names for your kids’ body parts can foster shame in them. So in our house, a Penis is a Penis. A Vulva is a Vulva. Yup, you read that right. We use the absolute proper names. If you didn’t know, the entire external female genitalia is the vulva. The vagina is just the inside part. For some reason everyone started using vagina for the whole works and I guess that’s what has stuck.

Here’s where the problem comes. I am thrilled she uses the proper names and shows absolutely zero shame about her body and her private parts. EXCEPT that she wants to talk about everybody else’s body parts. Like at the store, with people that are walking by. If she were a forty-year-old man instead a three-year-old girl, she’d have been arrested by now. AND she thinks it’s cool to run around naked when we have guests. Actually she seems to be aware that there is something interesting about streaking because she laughs uproariously when she does it! None of this bothers me, but it sure does make other people uncomfortable. So we’ve been trying to explain to her that it’s fine to be naked with Mommy and Daddy, but that it’s polite to wear clothes in front of guests. And that other people don’t want to talk about their penis or vulva. She’s not really getting it, or if she does she either forgets or doesn’t care. This leads to a lot of awkward, uncomfortable moments. Like that time she ran around patting everyone’s crotch while singing a song about it.

How do you handle talking to your kids about their private parts? Any tips on getting them to understand what private means?

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