Q: Good morning, Doctor and God bless you much for always being there. I’m the lady that told you about my baby’s Mumps. She’s very fine now. Thank you so muchDoc I was wondering,..what should I teach her to call her Vagina? I don’t know if it’s proper and polite to use the real words as Vagina or Penis especially in public places. She’s my first child and I’m pregnant with my second child now.Please help me out. Thanks a lot.
A: Hey you. Thanks for writing in. I’m glad your daughter is better.Interesting question and I’m sure lots of parents will have lots of different views about what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Before I weigh in, I’ll tell you a story that I heard when in medical school. One of our professors was trying to explain why it was very important to ensure that in teaching couples about contraception, there should be no ambiguity. Say exactly what you mean and show it clearly with models or call precise names. So, the story was told of a medical doctor who was trying to explain to a couple how to use condoms. He didn’t have a model to use and show, had no pictures and probably figured that it didn’t make sense to ask the man to strip So, he told them to assume that his (the doctor’s) thumb was the patient’s penis. And he then proceeded to show the couple how to insert the condom over the thumb. It appeared communication had taken place. Everyone was happy, hands were shaken and everyone departed.A few months later, a visibly upset and confused couple returned to the clinic to see the same doctor. In summary, despite following the doctor’s advice and doing exactly what he’d told them, his wife still got pregnant. The worried looking doctor mentally tried to review what he’d told them while scanning through the pages of the couple’s folder. He asks the man how exactly he used the condom. The man thrusts out his thumb and tells the doctor that he put the condom on his thumb in exactly the same way the doctor did it during their hospital visit! The rest as they say is history!What am I saying? It is important to be very clear about what each body part is called and what can happen when inappropriate contact happens there. In these days where uncles, aunties and even parents have turned child molesters and pedophiles, it is important that children can adequately communicate what, if any inappropriate contact has taken place. It also helps the children to be comfortable in their skin and not feel that there is anything wrong with those parts of their bodies. They are private parts and should not be indiscriminately touched by anyone, even parents especially after a certain age, but they are also normal parts of the body.Teaching the right name helps make the children comfortable with their bodies. Be matter of fact and remember that this is just a prelude to the even more cringe-inducing conversation that you are going to have in a few years about sex education So start your practice with this and try not to look embarrassed.I know that the greatest fear is the embarrassment that one would feel if one’s child got up in public to scream ‘mum, my vagina hurts!’. I know. I would literally want to die too And why is that? It’s because we’ve literally made these words sound like bad words. They are not. They are names of body parts like nose, ankle etc. And if we all felt comfortable about it, there would probably be no shame.When I give health talks in some places and the conversation veers towards reproductive organs, grown men and women start giggling. I find it really fascinating! Really? What’s so cute about the names? Nothing! They are just not used to hearing it and this is most likely a hang-up from early childhood.Finally, if you don’t teach your child the right name, she will probably learn it from the internet as soon as she’s able to use a computer. And from then, all the other information you pass on may also become suspect That’s my take. What’s yours?Have a good night, y’all