Toddlers are curious and like to explore cracks, crevices and anything else they can get their tiny hands on. And their own bodies are no exception. Just assuredly as you will notice your toddler plunging their finger into their ear or nose, they might begin to examine other body parts as well at this age, including their genitals.
As parents, it is important to set appropriate, physical boundaries for your toddler as they experience this heightened sense of awareness about their body.
Here are some tips to help navigate this sometimes uncomfortable, but completely natural phase:
- Do not pass judgement or shame. Assure your child that touching their private parts is okay, and it is important they are familiar with all of their body parts and functions.
- Offer your toddler privacy. Providing your child their own special place and time for changing, bathing, and going to the bathroom will teach them that these activities, as well as being without clothes on, are meant to be private (except when adult supervision is needed).
- Keep your own doors locked. Ensure your doors are closed securely when being intimate with your partner, and use discretion when showering or changing, especially as your child gets older.
- Explain appropriate vs. inappropriate touch. Communicate that your private parts are private, and teach them the proper words for genitalia. Sharing their private parts with anyone else, even if they ask, is off-limits, unless required by a parent, adult caregiver, or doctor.
- Teach positive body image early on. Establish a healthy body image for your children at an early age. Tell them that their bodies are beautiful and strong, and it is important to take good care of them. Eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and rest, as well as good hygiene are valuable practices at any age.
(Adapted from Focus on the Family)