Focus on the Family

The Reasoning for Using Anatomically Correct Terms With Your Kids

How do you describe private body parts to your kids? Using nickname to describe these areas isn’t necessarily wrong. But there’s a better path to set your kids up for success in their future conversations about sex, sexuality, and their hopeful marriage.

When our kids were toddlers, my husband and I recognized the importance of teaching them anatomically correct terms for their private parts. Of course, we knew this might include some awkward moments. Like the time our 2-year-old daughter blurted, “Boys have penises!” while we were enjoying a quiet dinner with grandparents at a Chinese restaurant.

But ultimately, we decided that the wisdom of using correct terms outweighed potential embarrassment. Committing to use anatomically correct terms with your kids can establish healthy boundaries for your child’s continued development. Generally, this approach can improve parent-child communication, prevent abuse and set a foundation for healthy sexuality.

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Communication Foundation

One benefit of using anatomically correct terms for body parts is that it opens the lines of communication between parents and children. As children come to realize that conversations about sex are not shameful or taboo, they learn that they can talk to Mom or Dad about anything.

Author and physician Walt Larimore explains how using the right term builds a solid foundation for family conversation. “My wife and I taught our children from an early age about God’s divine design for them sexually,” he says.

“For us, this meant using anatomically correct names for each body part. We discussed body parts and how they work as if it were a totally natural conversation. We wanted our kids to never be ashamed of what God created.”

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My husband and I opted for a similar approach. Using the correct words for our conversations about private parts helps remove embarrassment regarding these topics. Rather than using nicknames or abbreviations for these body parts, take initiative in using the anatomically correct terms. As always, use your discretion involving your child’s age and stage.

The goal is for these terms to become normal within your conversations about sex, sexuality, and sexual development. However, you should use your wisdom in how often you have conversations like this with your kids. Think about their age and stage. Also, consider their personality and how they might handle awkward topics like anatomically correct terms for private parts. Doing so will establish a basis for open and honest conversations in the future.

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Private and Off-Limit

Along with teaching children the proper words for body parts, we also emphasize that certain body parts are private and off-limits to others. Our 2-year-old’s restaurant announcement was one of several awkward moments in public.

We have had to coach our kids regarding when and where it is appropriate to talk (loudly) about these body parts. But the confidence we feel, knowing that they wouldn’t hesitate to tell us if something happened, is well worth any embarrassment.

Also, Dr. Larimore recommends using “your personals” or “your private parts” to refer to a child’s body parts. “It was a teaching tool,” he says. “Another way of training our children that certain areas of their bodies were personal and private. No one was allowed to touch or view those areas without their — and our — permission, and without our presence.”

Using Anatomically Correct Terms Can Help Prevent Abuse

Experts believe teaching your child plain and accurate terms to describe the human body can help prevent sexual abuse. You can take initiative by giving kids the language they need to ask important questions. Especially to be able to recognize potentially dangerous situations. Predators often use euphemisms for private areas, and knowing proper terms give your child credibility should he or she ever need to recognize or report abuse.

Laura Palumbo, a prevention specialist with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, notes that kids who understand correct terminology are better prepared for a world where abuse is an awful reality.

“Teaching children anatomically correct terms, age-appropriately, promotes positive body image, self confidence and parent-child communication.”

“Research shows that the vast majority of children want information about sex and sexual health to come first and foremost from their parents.” Also, Dr. Larimore says, “If you open up to your kids about sex and sexual health early, then they’ll know you are there for them and their questions — all of them — at any time.”

Final Thoughts on Using Anatomically Correct Terms

Using correct anatomical terms with children lays a foundation for the terms you’ll need to discuss when you begin the conversation about sex.

When kids are older a more broad conversation can occur about topics like sex, puberty, and sexual development. For parents, using anatomically correct terms will help build your child’s understanding of their identity. Finally, that can provide parents with confidence as they guide their young children through the process of developing a healthy and whole sexual identity.

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