Private body parts

Teaching about the private body parts is one of the first and most important things for you to do in preparing your child for puberty.

Introduction

Teaching about the private body parts is one of the first and most important things for you to do in preparing your child for puberty. Learning about their private body parts helps your child to understand their body and how to take care of it. It also allows your child to build the skills involved in identifying private places and private behaviours, which are essential skills to keep safe and participate in the community.

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You might feel a bit awkward talking about private body parts with your child, especially if this is the first step into puberty education. This is OK. Getting comfortable with talking about the private body parts is a matter of practice and repetition – soon you will say penis as easily as you can say elbow!

Some families call private body parts by nicknames. You might have heard some common ones like “fanny”, “willy” or “heiny”. Some families might also consider the names of private parts to be rude, like swear words.

However, it is important that we don’t discourage children from using these proper names. Using nicknames for private body parts can be confusing for your child and might mean that they are unable to accurately identify a part of their body if a problem occurs. When you use the proper names for private body parts, you:

  • de-stigmatise and normalise puberty education
  • give your child confidence in communicating with you about their body
  • position yourself as a trustworthy source of knowledge and support

 

The names of the private body parts are:

  • breasts
  • vulva
  • clitoris
  • labia
  • vagina
  • penis
  • testes
  • buttocks
  • anus

For more information about these body parts, go to How the Body Works.

While these parts are called the private body parts, this does not mean that all the other body parts are public. It is important to emphasise with your child that while there are parts that we can show in public (e.g., our faces and arms), nobody should touch any part of you without your consent.

For more information about teaching your child about consent, go to Consent and sex.

Once your child knows the names for the private body parts, it’s then important to be able to identify them on the body. This allows your child to communicate with you if there is pain or discomfort in a private body part and empowers them to have ownership of their body.

An easy way to identify where the private body parts are is that they are the body parts which are covered by underwear. You can use visual resources such as pictures, books or anatomically correct dolls to help teach this. See the list of resources at the bottom of the page.

A quick and simple rule to help your child learn where private body parts should be covered is:

“Private behaviours involve private body parts and can only be done in a private place.”

A person’s own bedroom and the bathroom at home are private places.

While some families feel comfortable with nudity in public places of the home, if your child is struggling with learning about puberty changes and their body, having clear and consistent rules both at home and in the community is important to help them learn.

For strategies on how to teach about behaviours that are allowed in public and private places, go to Public and Private; and Public and Private Behaviours

Conversation Starters

Can you name all the parts of your body? Let’s try! (Start from the head and go downwards – turn it into a game!)
Can you tell/show me who the boss of your private body parts is?
There are some rules about private body parts; can you tell me the rules?

Strategies for you to try

Practice getting comfortable with using the names of the private body parts

You might like to try saying the names in the mirror, or even labelling them on your own body. Practicing saying the names by yourself is a good way to get comfortable before incorporating them into everyday language. Remember, it is OK to feel awkward!

Use the names of private body parts in daily conversation

When you are ready, you can start using the correct names for private body parts just like you would with the other body parts. You can do this:

  • during personal care (e.g. toileting: you need to wipe your vulva after you do a wee)
  • when your child is getting changed (e.g. I’m putting your underwear on, underwear covers your penis because it is a private body part)
  • using books and resources where there are cartoon depictions of private body parts (see below for recommended resources)

Use visual resources

You can use anatomically correct dolls to teach about the private body parts.

You can also use the paper doll stencil below in a similar way.

Print out the stencil, get some colouring pencils, crayons or markers, and ask your child to draw underwear over the private body parts. They can then label the parts.

Or, your child can draw a body and label it themselves.

learning about girls’ bodies

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Private body parts

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