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Cleaning your penis

Teaching your child to clean their private body parts is an excellent way to build independence in their personal care.

Introduction

Teaching your child to clean their private body parts is an excellent way to build independence in their personal care. It can also be a good way to reinforce your child’s understanding of private and public, by teaching them to clean their private body parts in a private place. For more information on private and public go to private and public body parts

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At birth a child’s foreskin is fused to their penis. Over time the foreskin will begin to separate from the head of the penis. Your child will then be able to retract their foreskin and clean underneath it.

Foreskin separation happens at different ages. It is therefore important that you are very gentle when trying to retract the foreskin. If the foreskin does not retract easily do not force it. Just continue to clean the outside and tip of the penis. Most foreskins will have loosened by around age 12, but it is different for everyone. If you are concerned about your child’s foreskin you should speak to a doctor.

When children start puberty they sweat more. This can cause a thick whitish substance to build up under skin folds and creases on the penis and scrotum. This is called smegma. This is normal, and can happen at all ages. While smegma is normal, if left uncleaned it can build up and can cause the penis to become sore and irritated. For this reason it is important to clean underneath the foreskin and around the head of the penis regularly once puberty starts.

For children with an intact penis it is important that they learn to retract their foreskin to clean underneath. Children who have not yet reached puberty should clean under their foreskin only once or twice a week. Children who have reached puberty should clean under their foreskin more regularly.

Encourage your child to clean the outside of the penis gently with warm water and their hand or wash cloth. Hold the foreskin between the thumb and forefinger and gently slide it back to show the head of the penis.

Clean the head of the penis with warm water. Your child can use a wash cloth to gently remove any smegma or sticky stuff. They can also use a gentle or natural soap to clean the penis. Be careful not to use too much soap as it can make the skin dry.

Encourage your child to clean the outside of the penis gently with warm water and their hand or wash cloth. If smegma is sticky or difficult to remove you can use a wash cloth to gently wipe it away.

Conversation Starters

You are doing such a good job of washing your arms and legs. You need to wash your penis too. Can I show you how?
Cleaning your body is important to keep it healthy and feeling good. Your penis is part of your body. It needs cleaning too. Can you show me how well you can clean your penis?

Strategies for you to try

Practice

Teach your child to clean their penis by practicing on their forefinger. This will help them learn the movement and correct amount of pressure to apply.

Utilise a visual schedule

Add cleaning your penis to visual schedule detailing your child’s shower or bath time routine.

Describe what you’re doing as you do it

When helping your child wash their penis, describe what you are doing as you do it and frequently check in with them by asking ‘is this OK?’ This tells your child that taking care of their body is important and that they can say stop at any time.

If your child has limited mobility, give them time to clean their penis as best they can before asking them if it is OK for you to finish helping them wash the area.

not washing their genitals

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Introduction to puberty for girls
Cleaning your penis

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Introduction to puberty for boys
Cleaning your penis

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