There seems to be a LOT of confusion about parental nudity around kids and what is appropriate. Just like with all things that involve “intimate” family choices, each family will have their own beliefs and what you do in your own family, is right for you. But…for those of you looking for some guidance in this area…read on!
Questions about nudity and kids usually focuses on a few key areas.
Kids bathing together:
Siblings bathing together is clearly much easier on the parent doing the bathing so is there ever a time that they should stop taking baths or showers together? This will focus around comfort level. First, comfort level of the parents. If you have a newborn and a toddler, this is probably not the best mix of bathing your children together only because they each need to be watched VERY closely for obvious safety reasons, so this is more of a 1:1 ratio. I do love the idea of allowing your older child to be involved in bathing their younger siblings because it can be a great and wonderful time to teach them about correct names of body parts and starting to model for them how to show/give respect when it comes to touching other people’s bodies.
If the kids are out of the slippery baby stage, bathing together is a great thing for them to do, whether they are the same gender or not. It is a great way to show that bodies are natural, we shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies, and there is nothing to hide. It is a perfect time to teach body positive things like correct names for anatomy and proper touching/commenting on other people’s bodies. I am a big believer in bathing together as long as the kids are comfortable together, until they get to be around puberty age, or their bodies start to change because they will probably want to start having some more privacy.
Adults being nude in front of kids
Parents, I am going to say this until I am blue in the face. Little kids are NOT sexual, they are curious. They don’t look at other people in a sexual way, they are just curious about bodies. They don’t touch themselves because they are being sexual. They touch themselves because it feels good. That’s it. They are happy doing things to learn about their world and what feels good to their bodies. If you do feel they are being sexual in any way, you may want to dig deeper to find out if they have possibly been exposed to something they shouldn’t have been exposed to. That being said, you do you. You need to be comfortable in your own home. If you’re comfortable being naked, be naked. If not, cover up. What drives me crazy is that our main lesson to our children should be to teach them that bodies are beautiful and natural and that every body comes in different shapes and sizes and that no two bodies are alike. There are a few things that usually play into adult discomfort with being naked in front of our kids:
- Previous trauma - understandable
- Our own parents were never naked in front of us - we came from a totally different generation.
- We are ashamed of our own bodies - This is a big one parents because you need to check in. Your little kids don’t know yet about body shaming and societal expectations and photoshopping and all the other messed up things going on with our world today. Don’t teach them! When our kids are young, we are the ones teaching our kids to be ashamed of their bodies because we hide ours. Pretend you are the most beautiful person in the world because guess what, that’s what your kids think of you.
- Our kids may sexualize us - if they do, it's time to stop. If there comes a time that you get a weird vibe or you or your child feels uncomfortable, that’s a great sign it may be time to cover up.
Teaching privacy vs. teaching shame is the KEY here! Have a discussion with your child when they get old enough about the importance of respecting privacy and body wishes. It is an easy talk. “Hey, you know how you don’t like it when I walk into your room when you’re naked without knocking, I feel the same now too. Please knock before coming in.” For me, I am pretty comfortable, plus I have 3 girls so it’s a little easier. I just tell my girls that I am going to be naked in the next 2 minutes so if they don’t want to see it, it's time to go. Usually, they don’t care because it’s never been in issue in our house. The important thing about being naked in front of your kids is to be as natural and as comfortable as you can be. Avoid criticizing your body in front of your children. Instead, teach them that all bodies look different and different is good. Let each family member decide what is comfortable for them.
Ok, so what about the opposite gender parent?
This totally goes back to the curiousity part of childhood. Our kids should be taught about normal body anatomy in a non-shameful way. What better way to do it then for them to see it in real life? I want to remind everyone again, this is NOT sexual. When our kids are young, they are not sexual beings. Exposing littles to the opposite gender can be a great great lesson in the difference between boys and girls and how we have some similar parts and some different parts. It can be a great way to teach about why your older body looks different than their younger body and what process happens to change our bodies as we get older (puberty). If a parent isn’t comfortable being fully nude in front of a child, then maybe they are comfortable wearing underwear instead. There are different ways to deal with different comfort levels. If your kids are never exposed to nudity in the home, they will at some point in their lives, become sexual beings and their curiousity levels will for sure peak at that stage, and then they will go looking for it elsewhere, and there are a LOT of very easy places to find it (asking others for nudes or looking at porn).
The worst part about this is that when they go looking for it online, they are going to see everything we don’t want them to see. Perfect bodies, big boobs, large penises, groomed vulvas, hairless genitals, the list goes on. The more we can expose our littles, in a non-shameful, way to natural bodies within our homes, the less taboo it becomes to talk about problems, questions, or changes when they arise. Again, when it gets to the point that our kids are older, getting closer to puberty, we and they will probably start seeking more privacy. Or they may not. If it gets to the point where they are making you uncomfortable, it is time to set some healthy boundaries.
Healthy suggestions to embrace nudity in your home
- Start young. The younger, the better. When your kids see you comfortably being nude from their first memories, it becomes a normal and natural thing to do.
- Answer questions without judgment so you stay away from shame which will help them know you are a safe place to come for future questions.
- It is important to explain to your kids that not every family practices nudity in front of each other so your friend’s houses may be different. Have the talk about where it is and is not appropriate to take your clothes off. Tell your kids that nudity is natural in your home and with your immediate family. No other family members should ask or try to be nude in front of your kids.
- Use nudity in your home as the great opportunity it is to teach about bodies, consent, puberty, respect, and all the other wonderful lessons there are to keep shame out of these conversations and bring positivity into their world.
- Do NOT comment on your's or other people's bodies and teach your kids to do the same. Your internal thoughts should not be external dialogue. Happy that you lost weight, upset at yourself for eating the pizza and french fries, think your thighs don't look great, don't like the way your stomach looks...YOUR WORDS MATTER and will help to teach your children's internal dialogue.