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How to Teach Kids About Private Parts

Updated on May 20, 2007

Parents need to be honest with kids and let them know as much information about their bodies as soon as they're ready for it. That's the key. They need the information when they are ready for it, not when you finally work up the courage to tell them what this or that piece is for. Kids are not ashamed of their bodies and they shouldn't be. It's your job as a parent to keep them safe. This is one area where we all need to step up to the plate, for health and safety sake.

Bad Guys Look For Ignorant Victims

Check out this enlightening quote I found from a convicted child molester:

"Parents shouldn't be embarrassed to talk about things like this-it is harder to abuse or trick a child who knows what you're up to."

So let's take the bad guy's advice this time and teach our kids to protect themselves. Let them know what other people may be up to. If you don't, it's clear from the quote that someone else will.

Don’t Freak Out

You don't need to make a big deal out of teaching kids about private parts. Think about how you teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. You don't freak out. You don't make a big deal about it. You simply keep reminding them over and over until you know they've got it.

You go from holding your toddler's hand, to watching her cross the street by herself, to eventually adding on rules about bicycles and then driving a car. It's a cumulative process that takes a long time to complete.

Teaching them about their bodies is no different. People feel uncomfortable so they try to have one talk about "down there" and then never bring it up again. Bad idea. It's a long-term, cumulative transfer of knowledge.

But I Don’t Want To Frighten Them

You don't need to worry that you're scaring kids. In fact, the opposite is true. The less mysterious things are, the more confident kids will feel. If you're worried what the neighbors will think, explain to your child that this is information that all parents need to talk about with their kids in their own way and that they are not to go around school blabbing all their newfound knowledge.

Role-playing can be a good way to practice how the child is supposed to react in a given situation. Just remember it takes repetition.

Give them the words to use. For example "This is not my mom. This person is trying to take me. I need help." Kids need to know it's okay to make a scene.

Be Clear

Go as far as you want in explaining the biological functions of private parts, but be prepared to answer questions honestly. There's nothing to be ashamed of.

Be clear with boundaries too. A good rule of thumb is that private parts are anything covered by a bathing suit. And for older kids, sex is when any part of one person - from the top of the head to the tips of the toes - touches any private part of another person.

The most important thing is to nurture the relationship with your child so that she feels comfortable with you. Share with your child things that make you shy or embarrassed so that she knows you're not perfect - that you don't always know the answers either and that it's okay for her to ask for help. Take the time to let her know, not only in words, that she is free to discuss anything with you and she'll be safer for it.


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