SPONSORED CONTENT -- (StatePoint) Children have a lot of questions about the way the world works and parents hope to have straightforward answers. But when it comes to questions regarding the body, parents and kids alike can find these conversations awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Experts say that destigmatizing a child’s curiosity about their body will not only help them take better care of their health, it may even spark their interest in science.
“Kids have so many questions about their bodies, some practical, some pure curiosity. Sadly, society sometimes chastises children for even asking these questions. By better understanding their bodies though, they can adopt good habits that stay with them for life, and learn about physics and biology in a fun way,” says David L. Hu, Ph.D., a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and author of “The P Word: A Manual for Mammals.”
Dr. Hu, an award-winning scientist, animal expert and author, wrote “The P Word” for his 10-year old son, who like many children his age, is eager to learn more about his body. While previous books dealing with this topic are written with teenagers in mind, Dr. Hu believes it’s important for younger kids to enter puberty already having all the facts about their biology. His book, meant for ages 7-12, introduces the penis as an organ that unites all biologically male mammals. It’s meant to serve as a gender-neutral, definitive resource about the penis for kids, providing tools kids need to recognize and name their body parts, understand when something might be wrong and practice good hygiene.
If you’re a parent of a curious kid, or a parent of a child who hasn’t yet voiced their questions, Dr. Hu offers the following tips:
1. Try not to shy away from these conversations or make your child feel ashamed for asking a question about their body. Keep in mind that many children will turn to the internet for answers if you aren’t open to answering their questions, where they may encounter false information or inappropriate content. Instead, acknowledge their curiosity by answering their questions as best you can, and by pointing them to trustworthy resources.
2. Don’t wait until your child reaches puberty. If you start talking to kids about their bodies when they are young, you’ll normalize and desensitize the subject, and the act of talking about it. Helping a child feel comfortable in their own skin before things start to change, will set the stage for less stress during puberty.
3. Help kids understand that their body is natural and normal. In “The P Word,” Dr. Hu intentionally presents colorful, engaging images and facts about different mammals around the globe alongside information about human bodies, including how animals use their penises to pee, mark their territory and reproduce. “Comparative biology makes learning fun and amusing, lightens the mood around a serious subject, helps young kids understand their place in nature, and offers insights into the role of their penis or vagina outside the role of sex,” says Dr. Hu.
A valuable resource for parents, librarians, educators and of course, kids, more information about “The P-Word” can be found by visiting sciencenaturally.com/product-page/the-p-word-a-manual-for-mammals.
“My hope is that kids realize that every question they have, no matter how embarrassing it is, can be addressed by the tools of science. They should be proud of being curious about their own bodies,” Dr. Hu.