Because eventually she'll need to know.
I received a lot of stereotypical, bad advice when I found out I was having a daughter, but the one I hated the most was, "with a boy, you only have to worry about one penis. With a girl, you have to worry about all of them."
Terrible, right? And for two reasons. One, my daughter may be attracted to girls, so go ahead and drop this archaic "advice." And two, why worry about penises?
Look, I get the gist of the statement, but the world should be more concerned with learning ways to explain penises to your daughter and less on how to make her afraid of them.
I know, that's not a topic anyone is really excited to discuss. But it's completely necessary. Much like talking to your daughter about her own genitalia, you have to discuss the male anatomy. Why? Because she's going to ask you.
One day she's going to see a little brother in the bath, or her baby cousin during a diaper change. She's going to ask about her body, and if Daddy has a vagina, too. She'll want to know where babies come from, how they get inside your belly, and hopefully, if you keep the conversation informative and helpful, you'll be the one she's questioning when she's ready to talk about that sex ed class.
So how do you take on this daunting task? Simple. Stop making it into such a big deal, because it's not.
You don't have any problems explaining your daughter's own anatomy to her (and if you do, that's a separate issue to discuss), so why should explaining a boy's be any different? A girl has a vagina, and a boy has a penis.
Now depending on their ages, you can get a little more detailed. And it's not because the conversation is inappropriate for little kids — they just may not understand any of what you're saying.
But you can't treat any conversation about male or female genitalia as gross, silly, or inappropriate. With those attitudes, you're setting your child up to think something is wrong with their body, and you're also leaving them in the dark when it comes to sex. If they get the understanding that it's hard for you to talk to them about penises, then how is your daughter supposed to talk to you about penises?
Don't be embarrassed or uncomfortable with the topic of penises. Your daughter needs to know what they are, not only for her own sexual health and curiosity of the human body, but to protect her from sexual assault as well.
These seven tips can help you steer the conversation and make it informative, accurate, and appropriate.
1. Use the correct terms.
No matter how you broach the subject with your daughter, be sure to use the word penis and not a "cutesy" term like willy, weewee, etc. Not only does it empower your daughter to know that there's nothing shameful or bad about genitalia, but Today notes that it can also protect her from molestation by being able to accurately name the body parts.
2. Remind her that it's a private area, too.
When you're talking to your daughter about her vagina, you've most likely mentioned to her that it's her own private parts, one she has complete control over. Be sure to remind her that penises are the same way. Just because they are something she doesn't understand doesn't mean she's allowed to ask to see someone's penis or touch it. It's a boy's private area, just like her vagina is hers.
3. Don't turn it into a formal discussion.
If you're talking to your daughter about penises, chances are she's asked a question about them. It's understandable if you're in mixed company or in the middle of the store to wait to have the discussion, but you don't have to make it into a big formal thing.
Parenting expert Michele Borba told Today that you should give the information in short tidbits, not in a long, drawn-out speech. She also suggested having the conversation while playing a game or taking a walk instead of sitting down like it's a big deal.
4. Explain the penis's role in reproduction.
Depending on the age of your child, this point may be different for everyone. But even a 5-year-old can learn that the penis puts sperm inside a woman's vagina to make a baby. You'll know where your child is in terms of information, so follow their lead.
5. Compare a penis to a vagina.
It's really that simple. When you have no idea where to start, simply explain to your little girl that boys have a penis just like she has a vagina. Dr. Mark Schuster told Parenting that it's an easy conversation when you simply explain that a penis and a vagina are how you tell a boy and girl apart.
6. Stop if she's uncomfortable.
If your daughter seems uncomfortable with the conversation or asks you to stop, listen to her. She'll ask you questions when she's ready. You don't have to be graphic with the conversation or go too far — sometimes kids really do just want the basic information.
7. Remind her that she shouldn't be forced to see or touch a penis.
This can be an incredibly tough subject to talk about, but it's so important. Once you've talked to your daughter about not touching a boy's penis or asking to see it, you need to remind her that she shouldn't be forced to touch or see one either.
This conversation can start no matter what age she's at, so don't let it slip by. You want her to view penises as normal and nothing to be ashamed of, but they are still private areas that people should keep to themselves.
The National Sex Offender Public Website recommends teaching your child that if someone tries to make her touch or look at their genitals, she needs to find a trusted adult right away, no matter who the person is or how embarrassed they seem.
This article was originally published at Romper. Reprinted with permission from the author.