Here at the School House we strive to normalize the use of correct anatomical words and break the shame around body parts for our future generations. Multiple times in a day the Educators in the classroom accompany the children to the bathroom to assist in the routine of toileting and diapering. While the children use the potty or are having their diapers changed we use proper anatomical terminology. For example: "Please point your penis down into the potty. Then your pee will go inside, and not spray you or the floor." or "You have a big poop in your diaper. So I'm going to wipe your vulva. I'm just going to separate your labia to get the poop out of there.".
As adults, many of us grew up being shown that these types of words were not OK to say, or maybe not taught them at all, instead being given vague or "cutesy" words. Using proper terms for our bodies empowers children by normalizing all body parts so saying something like "scrotum" is no more strange than saying "elbow". Using this type of correct language will allow children to be clear about their bodies in the future. If issues like allergies, infections, pain or abuse come up for a child during their lifetime, they will be able to be clear about exactly where and what is happening for them. When we use language like "down there" it is not specific and creates an air of mysterious shame around our bodies.
In the classroom we also strive to teach children about consent. Many adults believe that consent is a conversation that should be saved for sexual maturity. But the truth is that consent is something humans learn from birth. As we grow the adults around us teach us about consent and whether our voice is worth being heard. One example of this is how we treat children, especially those who are pre-verbal. We give children warning before we physically move or manipulate their bodies. For example: I will let a child know that I am going to wipe their nose or face with a cloth before I do so. I wait 10 seconds for them to process what I've said, since it can take a young child 10-15 seconds to mentally process what they're hearing. Then I will wipe the child's face. I find that when I take the time to tell a child what will happen before hand they are much less likely to get upset or fight against what is happening. It is respectful to the child. I know that I wouldn't want someone to just come up and put a wet cloth in my face without telling me. Why do we believe children would feel any different?
I will leave you all with one more thought regarding consent. This is a very relevant topic as we enter the holiday season when visits with family and friends are occurring. We have the responsibility to be our child's advocate. Well meaning people in our lives will be exciting to see our child and will ask, or maybe just go, for a hug or a kiss. Support your child's boundaries if their answer is "no". Suggest an alternative. High five? Fist bump? Blow a kiss? Wave? Don't allow another adult's disappointment to rob you of this opportunity to let your child know that you have their back and will make sure their boundaries are respected. Besides if that adult respects your child's "no", chances are, as the day progresses your child will become more comfortable around them and be included in their play or maybe even receive a child-initiated hug or kiss.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions please feel free to talk with me!
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