July 21, 2024
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Three Gifts You Can Give Your Daughter

From the moment a child is born, parents tell him or her about the wondrous workings of the world around them. Hopefully, they already begin building a trusting relationship through every verbal and non-verbal communication and interaction. Among the many wonders of the world that parents introduce to their children, parents are usually the earliest source and reference guide for children to learn about their own bodies’ workings.

Over the years, in my practice as a pelvic floor therapist, I have treated many women who have misconceptions or lack of information related to topics of sexuality and of their own anatomy that could have been avoided. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, I have chosen three areas that can greatly impact your daughter’s healthy development.

Language

At each stage of development, from toilet training to toddler to adolescence, the language we choose to use imparts an attitude that a child will carry into adult life. The words used to discuss any part of the body should be anatomically correct, for your child’s safety, mature intellectual development, and self-respect. While some families may feel more comfortable using other names in conversation, children should still know and recognize the correct anatomical terms for all parts.

Even at an early age, when teaching toileting and hygiene, parents should avoid referring to any body part or function with words such as “dirty,’’ “icky,” “germ-y,” or “gross.” When teaching one’s children proper hand washing after toileting, it should be emphasized that contact with any mucosal membrane, including mouth and nose, should be followed by hand washing for the purpose of good hygiene, not because these areas are “dirty.”

Children are acutely sensitive to picking up on a parents’ attitude and tone. It is recommended for parents to keep the tone of the conversation when discussing any physiological function as neutral and as matter-of-fact as possible. Squeamishness or uneasiness on the part of the parent when discussing sensitive topics will be picked up immediately by a perceptive child, and may convey feelings of “there is something not quite ‘okay’ about this topic.” Subsequently, this may affect how your child feels about these topics. When sensing a particular topic is making a parent uncomfortable, the next time that child has a question on a sensitive topic, he or she may choose to go elsewhere for the answers. These “sources” may not be of the most informed or accurate.

Knowledge of her own anatomy

When your daughter is ready, at any point before menses, use an anatomical illustration to teach your daughter about her anatomy. Then, send your daughter into the bathroom equipped with a hand mirror. Instruct her to become visually familiar with all parts of her body, and identify the basic anatomy from the illustrations. It is important for you to prepare her for what she will see and to be available to answer any questions she may have. Arming your daughter with understanding and knowledge of how her body works and functions will prepare and accompany her in every stage of development, growth, and change in her life.

Instruction in tampon use

In my practice, an overwhelming majority of women who have experienced difficulty consummating their marriages or have experienced ongoing pain with intercourse have reported that they were never able to insert or wear tampons comfortably. While this is not the cause for their current difficulties, detecting early pelvic discomfort with adolescent tampon users can be an important tool for preventing other pelvic floor pain issues in the future. It is significant to also add that there is no clinical evidence to support the largely held misconception in some segments of the Orthodox world that regular tampon use will cause hymeneal damage.

Tampon use in adolescence reinforces one’s own familiarity with pelvic anatomy and function, as well as provides tissue desensitization. Encouraging tampon use also imparts an important message to young women that menstruation should not slow them down or interfere with regular activity, like swimming.

By initiating these ongoing conversations with one’s daughter, a mother sends a clear message to her daughter that she can ask, discuss, or share things she may have heard or overheard in the safe non-judgmental environment of her home. A mother should then be prepared to respond to her daughter’s questions in a way that is honest, straight-forward, and consistent with one’s family’s values.

Not sure of where to start? There have been several excellent books about intimacy written with the observant family in mind, including Sara Diament’s Talking to Your Children About Intimacy: A Guide for Orthodox Jewish Parents. Imparting a healthy attitude and understanding of one’s developing body is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children.

As a physical therapist with advanced training in pelvic floor rehabilitation and women’s health, I am available for consult to mothers and daughters at any stage in life.

Rivki Chudnoff, PT, MSPT is a NY/ NJ licensed physical therapist with over 14 years of experience working in both pediatrics and women’s health rehabilitation. Her practice areas address the needs of women related to pelvic pain, prenatal and postpartum related pain, and incontinence. Rivki currently resides in Bergenfield with her husband Scott and their children. She can be reached at rivkichudnoff_gmail.com

By Rivki Chudnoff, PT, MSPT

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