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The Case for Teaching Kids 'Vagina,' 'Penis,' and 'Vulva' - Page 2

post #21 of 59
Katelove--But vulva isnt a collective word for all the parts of the female genitalia--thats just the part you can SEE. Thats actually a small percentage of the total parts.

I grew up using the word vagina as a collective term and i see nothing wrong with that. If people want to make that distinction they can but honestly i dont think it really matters other than for technical purposes. I thought more about this and i realized that a lot of little girls arent even aware of an inner vs an outer female gentalia, just the outer so giving it one name makes it less confusing. Once they are exploring themselves more and have more questions then it is more appropriate to give them the different terms.
post #22 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshinelove View Post

 thought more about this and i realized that a lot of little girls arent even aware of an inner vs an outer female gentalia, just the outer so giving it one name makes it less confusing. Once they are exploring themselves more and have more questions then it is more appropriate to give them the different terms.

 

It's interesting how people can have such different experiences - one of my childhood friends had to be taken to the doctor for putting marbles up there!  And my mother made sure to always tell us (proactively) not to put things in there, just like no crayons up the nose, no paper clips in the ears or what have you. lol.gif

post #23 of 59
Oh my gosh...marbles!!
post #24 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post

 

Also, 'vulva' is an ugly word, 'vagina' sounds so much nicer.

 

What a way to decide what word to use! 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

I don't teach "perinium" and I'm not sure how likely my girls are going to need that word anytime soon. I guess I don't think because teaching every possible word seems overly complicated, that teaching those two is complicated.

Totally seconded. I don't get why teaching two words, "vulva" and "vagina", is so complicated. If I had to use just one word I'd go with vulva. That's the external part that she is most likely to see and interact with, anyway. Girls aren't too likely to have much to do with their vaginas until puberty. Unless they are molested, in which case, like someone noted upthread, knowing one accurate word for the area is sufficient because nobody should be touching them on any part of the area anyway. 

 

A friend of mine blogged about teaching her kids euphemisms for genitals. I asked her about it and she said that she has difficulty bringing herself to use the words herself, and she'd rather have a euphemism that she can say in a matter-of-fact way than use the real word and cringe and thereby convey to her kids that it's a cringe-worthy thing. I can sort of see an argument there, though I am assuming also that they taught the kids both the real names and the euphemisms. 

 

I've heard the "Uncle Max touched my cookie" kind of story before (on the Internet, not anywhere in real life). The really horrid version was where the girl was telling her mom, who was presumably the one who taught her to call it a cookie in the first place! 

post #25 of 59

Hmm.  My parents tell a story about friends of theirs who (in the mid-1960's) had taught their little girl to call her genitals her "box"...she was about 3 yrs old and the little girl's parents thought it was just hiLARious and kept finding ways to ask their daughter about her 'box' throughout the dinner party and then laughing uproariously at her befuddlement...

As a result my parents never socialized with those people again, and were thusly inspired to teach their daughters the correct terminology, yay.

 

Another story I have filed away is when I learned my college boyfriend's parents taught their daughter to call her genitals her "goodgirl".  They also didn't explain menstruation when it was imminent and she was pretty sure she was dying, bleeding to death...

Yikes.  Very glad I didn't end up married into that mess.

post #26 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshinelove View Post

Katelove--But vulva isnt a collective word for all the parts of the female genitalia--thats just the part you can SEE. Thats actually a small percentage of the total parts.

ms.

Vulva is a collective term for the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and vestibule. That covers pretty much everything. Yes there is more clitoris on the inside than the outside and the vagina isn't included but what else is missing?
post #27 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

Vulva is a collective term for the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and vestibule. That covers pretty much everything. Yes there is more clitoris on the inside than the outside and the vagina isn't included but what else is missing?

What about the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries?
post #28 of 59

We're talking about parts that the kid can recognize and touch/point to. I mean, we don't typically teach them about the anatomical location of their pancreas, kidneys, gallbladder, spleen, etc. either at the same time we are teaching them hand, arm, chest, ear, eye, etc.

post #29 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post

 

Also, 'vulva' is an ugly word, 'vagina' sounds so much nicer.

 

 

Enigeron- "What a way to decide what word to use

I think i said at least a couple of times that the correct terminology is desirable. therefore i use the correct terminology. Nonetheless, i dont get  as uptight as others about the vulvl/vagina distinction because i grew up with 'vagina'.  Also, vulva isnt a nice word, but who cares?  Its the accuracy i aim for...anybody here say that they choose words to use based on what they sound like?

 

Having said that, personally, i feel my vagina more than my vulva, although i see my vulva.  A boy feels his penis  like a girl feels her vagina ( i guess) So what the girl feels is just as important as what she sees . Thats why the word 'vagina' is important, and maybe how it came to be used in the first place.

 

 

 

Originally Posted by katelove View Post

Vulva is a collective term for the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and vestibule. That covers pretty much everything. Yes there is more clitoris on the inside than the outside and the vagina isn't included but what else is missing?
 
Thanks for clarifying.
 
post #30 of 59

As a mother who has practiced accurate body part naming my children's entire life I can see the emotional benefits in my children vs their peers.  My children are much more secure and mature with their bodies then their same age group friends.  My MIL was horrified that I asked her to use the word penis rather than the slang "birdie". She even went as far as to ask me NOT to teach her 4 yr old THAT word. I asked her why? We call his nose a nose and his elbow an elbow? She only had an emotional response. After all theses years she has accepted that terms like penis and vulva and yes even breast and vagina are used in our house when needed.

 

Sara CD and CBE

 

Labor Affirmation:

My cervix opens outward and allows my baby to ease down.

post #31 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshinelove View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

Vulva is a collective term for the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris and vestibule. That covers pretty much everything. Yes there is more clitoris on the inside than the outside and the vagina isn't included but what else is missing?

What about the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries?

Those are the internal reproductive organs not genitalia.

Genitalia = external reproductive organs
post #32 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

Those are the internal reproductive organs not genitalia.

Genitalia = external reproductive organs

I learned it as "internal genitalia" vs "external gentalia" (look in any medical or anatomy textbook). If we're going to be so particular about teaching kids body parts then its important not to dismiss the internal genitalia. What if your daughter has pain her ovaries? If you only teach her about the vulva then she wont have any clue whats going on. Also, its important to explain the internal genitalia before she starts menstruating so she doesnt become traumatized.

Anyway, i still think using "vagina" as a collective word is good enough when they're really little since there is a lot to learn when it comes to both internal and external genitalia. I learned "vagina" as a collective term and its used as such in general language so there is nothing harmful about it, imo. If you're going to be exact then dont leave anything out.
post #33 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunshinelove View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

Those are the internal reproductive organs not genitalia.

Genitalia = external reproductive organs

I learned it as "internal genitalia" vs "external gentalia" (look in any medical or anatomy textbook). If we're going to be so particular about teaching kids body parts then its important not to dismiss the internal genitalia. What if your daughter has pain her ovaries? If you only teach her about the vulva then she wont have any clue whats going on. Also, its important to explain the internal genitalia before she starts menstruating so she doesnt become traumatized.

Anyway, i still think using "vagina" as a collective word is good enough when they're really little since there is a lot to learn when it comes to both internal and external genitalia. I learned "vagina" as a collective term and its used as such in general language so there is nothing harmful about it, imo. If you're going to be exact then dont leave anything out.

Maybe this is a regional thing? I have looked in many anatomy etc textbooks, being a midwife and an emergency nurse winky.gif and I've never seen the term internal genitalia used.

And I totally agree with you that we shouldn't ignore the internal reproductive organs. Im sorry if i gave that impression. My oldest daughter is not quite three so we haven't done a lot of internal anatomy yet but I taught her that her baby sister grew in my uterus. As she gets older and asks more questions then I will teach her the other organs. And not just reproductive either.
post #34 of 59

I feel like euphemism have the additional downside of giving your kids the impression of "this is not a topic we can discuss frankly; do not talk about it." When I was abused as a kid, I knew I should tell my mom... but I just couldn't. I'd mentally freeze up. She didn't find out until thirteen years later, when she straight up asked me about it because the man had been accused by others.

post #35 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by contactmaya View Post

Having said that, personally, i feel my vagina more than my vulva, although i see my vulva.  A boy feels his penis  like a girl feels her vagina ( i guess) So what the girl feels is just as important as what she sees . Thats why the word 'vagina' is important, and maybe how it came to be used in the first place.

 

 

 

Interesting. As an adult I'd say I feel both, but I think it was different when I was a little girl. I'm not sure if you mean "feel" in the sense of "touch" or in the sense of "be internally aware of", but I'd still say the same for either usage. I wasn't really conscious or connected to my vagina until puberty and beyond. I knew it was there but more in the way that I know my pancreas is there. 

post #36 of 59

I mean 'internally aware of'. You raise a good point, i cant really remember what i felt as a child. Possibly, when naked, i would 'feel' as in 'be aware of with an internal feeling', both the vagina and vulva, but not feel  the vulva so much if dressed, which i am most of the time....

 

actually, i would have to say that even then , most likely i had more awareness of 'vagina'.... 

 

I wonder if knowing the words gives us the more of a physical awareness?

post #37 of 59

'Birdie'?!  Really? Wow.  Never heard that one before.  

post #38 of 59

So I see that so far everyone agrees, use the right words, not words that make it feel like vagina/vulva or penis are something to be embarrassed about. 

Can this discussion now evolve to, WHAT we teach about them. If we say vagina must be kept private, and don't let our kids see us naked, aren't we still sending the same message?

 

I come from Europe, and there my kids run around naked all the time, here I hear people talk how their 3 year old is STILL not aware of what is appropriate, and opens the door to guests in his underware. ...!!! I mean, aren't you sending the same damn message, that your private parts are bad even at age 3 and even if they are covered, just not covered in enough layers. 

I live in the states, so I have to balance this, and keep my kids clothed at the beach and when guests arrive, but I try to make it about "do you want to wear something cute when guests arrive" instead of "go cover yourself up, we have guests coming!" I'm practically paranoid about making my kids feel in any way that there's something inherently bad about little penises. And still they have learned how it is here, and they will cover their underwear-covered penises around their friends the same summer they just spent naked in europe.

 

We have a common nick name in my country for vulva, that is cute and normal, and everyone knows it, and while we learn vagina or vulva in a natural way along the years, we continue to use them as medical words only, not in normal conversation. So I think that a little deviation from vagina is ok, as long as it's commonly used, not a word like cookie!

 

As to what kids feel, their vulva or vagina, I have lots of memories running around naked, and how you want to put on underwear when things are poking you in your vulva, or the visual memories are of vulva. I had no idea about vagina until later, but I do remember, how swinging in the swing we would scream, "I feel it in my vulva" but only as an adult I know it was not in vulva, it was the inside, vagina. but did that really matter to me as a child, that I didn't know I was talking about the outside even though I felt it in the inside. No. What mattered that we were free to scream out loud I feel it in my vulva, and not have to pretend I felt it in my belly, which is not correct!

 

Someone touched the subject of also talking about sex to your kids as a continual learning curve, not having "the one talk". And I so agree! I think this is guidline from my country, maybe even here, to tell your kids the absolute truth about how babies are made, but ONLY answer their question, no need to go further. So in my world this has meant that babies grow in mommy's belly, until the 3 year old asks "does it pop out of your belly button" then they need to learn it comes out of vagina. When my kids asked how does it get there, I say that you need daddys sperm and mommy's eggs to make a baby. and my then 6 year old didn't ask how daddy's sperm got there, and according to this rule you shouldn't tell more than they want to know. So that's where our conversation ended, and he will probably ask more soon, or eventually. At that point I don't know what I'll say, if it's soon, something vague like we make love, love is great :D or if his older, get him a illustrated book... My kids also know about periods, because we are weird and we dont close the door when we go to the bathroom. I had to tell my potty training two year old: "no, mommy doesn't have a diaper because she pees on herself, she gets blood once a moth, not all the time just somethimes." then seven year old wants to know why i bleed, and I'm not going to leave him wondering about mommy's scary condition, so I tell him that womens bodies are pretty much ready to make babies every month, and if you don't get pregnant, you bleed for a few days and then the body gets ready for a new one. And his reply was: "Yeah, don't make a new baby, we already know how THAT is, then you don't have time to play any games"

 

A good base for one day understanding that if you don't prevent it somehow, she will get pregnant :D

 

I also struggle telling kids things like, no-one should touch you around your swimwear line... then a slap in the booty from a friend is sexual abuse that they should feel bad about? I so wish I didn't have to, but I have said that no adult is allowed to touch your penis, and you have to tell mom about it, even if they would say don't tell. But more important is probably to be open about these things and remember to keep their trust, so when they come with any other bad secrets, you shouldn't freak out so bad that they never tell you another secret... 

post #39 of 59

tittipeitto-I am in total agreement with all you have said here! I have also struggled with the culture of covering ourselves without feeling like their body is bad. My 10 year old will change clothes right in the living room in front of the huge window for all the neighbors to see and I have to stop it.

I remember once my little kids playing in the sprinklers at my inlaw's, and I had no changes of clothes(it was a last-minute idea) so I just let my 18 month old play nude...everyone acted like it was very weird!

post #40 of 59

I am all for my children knowing their anatomical parts and names for areas less spoken in our culture.  However!  Dirty connotations comes from the tone and intent of the person using them more so than word choice.  Language, both for private and non-private subjects, needs to take into account maturity of the child.  "Did you know there are many names and nicknames for your body parts!" is a great segue to learning additional names when the child is interested.  What if giving your young child the anatomical names for their body parts and requiring them to use the names appropriately lead them to believe that their anatomy is complex, boring, and a bit scary.  

 

Think of other examples where we use nicknames to simplify language for the early years.   ..."Boo boos" are more specifically lacerations, x degree burns, abrasions.  And calling it "green lollipop soup" makes split pea way more tasty!  

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