Why We Should Start Talking To Our Kids About Their Private Parts

Written by Eve Bandusena | Parents Avenue’s Editorial Assistant

Image Source: Daphne Iking

Doubling as a proud mother of 3 children and being a committed child activist, Sabah’s very own Daphne Iking discusses this widely cultural taboo, breaks down barriers and urges parents to advocate on this important issue too.

On Why Educating Our Kids When They’re Young Is Better Than Later

“Parents need to start educating their children on sexual reproductive health early so they are well informed. If you don’t teach your children about sex and sexuality, they will learn about it elsewhere and it might not be the right information. You may also lose the opportunity to instil family values that is crucial and critical in addressing from the start.”

This is the resolute belief of Daphne Iking, one of Malaysia’s celebrated personalities whose driven work in child activism hits close to home.

“I am a mother of 3 children and I am a child activist. I know the reality from the ground up,” she says, “Children are sexually active at a younger age. Many minors have access to drugs and this raises the opportunity for children to experiment with sexual intercourse at such a young age.”

“There is no data to prove this, but in many cases where children run in conflict with the law, these cases are drug-related, and this is horrible, to say the least.” 

She continues sharing the many hard-hitting realities she’s encountered while working as a child activist.

“We have this case where a pregnant 9-year-old girl was brought in. We were worried she was a victim of no consent. Rape.”

However, things took a shocking turn.

“The counsellors found out that it was ‘consensual’ or, ‘suka sama suka’. Whether she was groomed to ‘enjoy’ the sexual relations, we don’t know at the time of the interview. The boyfriend is a minor too. Legally, this falls under statutory rape.” She said.

“This is why I continue doing what I do. Even if it means I need to bang tables to be heard.”

Forgoing Cultural Taboos & Telling Them Like It Is 

When asked about why these conversations about children’s private parts are culturally considered to be “untouchable” and “off the table” for most families, Daphne gives her honest take on it. 

“We have an Asian culture that doesn’t really ‘communicate’. Children are seen but not heard. Communication is a two-way process and we need to strip away the notion that ‘children don’t understand anyway’. You’d be surprised how intelligent a young brain is.” 

According to Daphne, opening and starting a dialogue with one’s children regarding these sensitive issues do more good than harm in the long run.

“We need to break down taboos and be more open in discussing delicate topics like sexual health and our reproductive system. Many say talking sex education will encourage promiscuity. I beg to differ,” she contests.

“Equip a child with the right knowledge, tools, and access to a safe communication space. If parents are open and truthful, it is more likely that the child would turn to them if he or she has any doubts or questions about any issue.”

As for the persisting conundrum of should, we assign nicknames for them or, call the private parts as they are? Daphne shares that she used to refer to her children’s private parts as something else, but realized why it’s important to tell them like it is. 

“Let’s say a mother calls her child’s vagina, ‘karipap’. If someone touches her privates inappropriately, and the young child says ‘mama, someone touched my karipap,’ it doesn’t cause alarm. But if she taught the child to say vagina, “Mama, someone touched my vagina”. This would immediately ring your attention.”

The sad truth is as parents we could miss it as it happens right under our noses.

Furthermore, children who are informed about their bodies can accurately describe what is happening to them and are less likely to be misled by someone who tries to tell them they are touching them for some non-sexual reason. 

 

Image Source: Daphne Iking
Ways We Can Educate Our Children About Their Private Parts 
  
Every family varies in their method of educating their children on this subject. There’s no right or, wrong way and parents shouldn’t feel hindered by this process. For Daphne, she shares that she’s been very open with her children since the very beginning.
 
“I call their private parts as they are: the penis and vagina. I tell my children at a very young age about self-respect and explain if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable, or if anyone touches them inappropriately, they can come to me always.”
 
As with educating children, having conversations are at times not enough to be relied on entirely. That’s why Daphne turns to different resources such as books to convey these lessons to her children.
 
“I found that books helped my slightly older kids. I incorporate a lot of reading, so we have books about “knowing your body” which is age-appropriate for children of different levels. I just bought Isobel, my pre-teen a guide on being a teen at this day and age. We have open discussions about it.”
 
However, if we as parents choose to overlook this, dire consequences could follow.
 
“There is a rise in teenage pregnancies over the last years. Many of these young adults lack access and knowledge to contraception, and they end up having unprotected sex and STDs. The truth is, more and more children are sexually active now and are not practicing protected sex, which leads to a notable prevalence of teenage pregnancies and sadly, baby dumping.”
 
Image Source: Daphne Iking
Further Skills To Teach Our Kids For The Prevention Of Sexual Abuse
 
Daphne noted that with the presence of technology, more and more kids are finding it easier to access, as well as owning their own social media pages. She believes that parents need to monitor their devices and their online activities. 
 
With that, she shares a real-life account that happened to her daughter.
 
“I found an app that my daughter had downloaded which I felt was inappropriate but before I deleted it, we had a long discussion about it. I have parental control and limited screen time,” she shares, “we can’t do away without their PCs and tablets and phones, but we can urge them to understand the dangers that lurk and to be well versed on what proper netiquette is, (internet etiquette and manners.)” 
 
Other than that, it’s widely believed that sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers. Unfortunately, this is very far from the truth as Daphne elaborates.
 
“About 93% of people are abused by someone known to them. We need to carefully consider whether to leave an older child unsupervised, even if it’s broad daylight at home,” she says, “you can choose to do a background check of anyone you leave your kids with, from babysitters to tuition teachers, to the transporter who sends your kids to and from school.” 
 
Besides, placing the sole focus on educating our children on their private parts and helping them develop skills to prevent child sexual abuse from taking place. Another question we as parents must ask is, “What can we do as parents to recognize signs of sexual child abuse?”
 
As a parent herself, Daphne cites that learning to spot the warning signs of child sexual abuse is the first step to protecting the child that is in danger. 
 
“Listen to your instincts. If you notice something that isn’t right, or someone is making your child feel uncomfortable, even if you can’t put your finger on why – it’s important to talk to the child in a manner that won’t make the child feel guilty.” 
 
In some cases, the child feels guilty which could be due to grooming, so they don’t tell their parents. 
 
When it happens, sexual abuse no fault of theirs. There are physical, emotional and behavioural signs one can look out for. 
 
“From signs of trauma to the genital area to sexual behaviour that is inappropriate for the child’s age or bedwetting – to nightmares or resuming behaviours that they were grown out of, such as thumb sucking. There is more the list, but best a professional speaks more about this.”
 
Any last messages for the readers of Parents Avenue?
 
“I read this book about ‘Teaching Your Children Values’ and came across this insightful info,” she shares. “Many parents who did not practice chastity or abstinence in their youth are nonetheless hopeful or even anxious that their children will.”
 
“This is not hypocrisy and shouldn’t cause guilt. Today is its own time – with its own time, concerns and its reminders. The fact that some of us have learned from our ‘mistakes’ ought to be the best reason why our kids do not have to do likewise.”
 

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. At Parents Avenue, we strongly recommend all our readers to seek medical advise from your local hospital or clinic. Thank you. 

 
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