Getting naked with your kids.
I believe that nudity should be treated as something natural, but unremarkable. Parents will be comfortable with different degrees of nakedness, depending on their own background and body image. Some families are comfortable showering or visiting saunas together. Others may be more comfortable only being naked around same-sex members. Still other parents may be reluctant to undress in front of a child, much less hold a conversation while nude. But remember that your attitudes towards nudity will shape your child’s future in a variety of ways.
Children have a natural curiosity about nudity. Being naked around your children—whether occasionally or regularly—can teach them what a “normal” adult body looks like. Modeling comfort with and respect for your body can become a basis for a healthy body image as your child grows and experiences the changes of adolescence.
Here are some tips for handling nudity in your family.
- Be explicit about the fact that there are different cultural rules around nudity. How nudity is handled varies across cultures and even across families. In some northern European communities, whole families will hot-tub together naked. In Germany, some public pools allow kids to swim naked until the age of 6; adults may frequently strip down on beaches or in parks. Elsewhere, however, we find numerous restrictions on when one can undress and in front of whom. Explaining such differences to children will help them develop an understanding of appropriate behavior in their own cultural context, as well as an ability to refrain from judgment when faced with different customs or beliefs.
- Be explicit about situational rules as they come into play. Being naked is normal in some situations and inappropriate in others, even within your own family. When children are young, they have not developed a sense of modesty based on cultural prescriptions and do not care who sees them naked. Eventually, though, they will need to manage the display of their body in expected ways, and parents can help children learn to do this without instilling a sense of shame. During the early years, they can have opportunities to see you naked. You may want to bathe together, as they will need help anyway. Request privacy when you want it, however, as when using the toilet. Children should also learn that nakedness will make people uncomfortable in some situations, as when visitors are present. Nakedness will be natural and expected in some places, such as in the bathroom or bedroom when changing, but out-of-place in the kitchen.
- Set patterns and expectations early. Opposite-sex nudity within the family is not unacceptable or traumatizing if it occurs early and within appropriate contexts, for example. For men or gay men raising daughters in the U.S., for example, nudity will not be shocking if it was treated as normal during the early years. The same goes for opposite-sex siblings (although care should be taken from very early on to teach siblings to uphold stricter boundaries when their friends are present in the home).
- It’s OK to politely compare bodies and ask questions. Develop a sense of ease and comfort with your own body and with responding to questions. Your young children will look at your body, comparing it to their own or to your partner’s body. They may ask questions about breasts, penises, or pubic hair, and parents should respond factually (breasts provide milk for babies, hair provides cooling protection, because adults’ bodies are warmer, etc.). This process also teaches children when it is acceptable to look at other people’s bodies and what types of comments can be made.
Source: Psychology Today
Original publication 5 May, 2019
Posted on NatCorn 26th January 2021
Reference to an article does not infer endorsement of any views expressed.