Those of a nervous disposition might want to look away now. We’re going to talk about – whisper – nudity. That said, it would be a shame if you did. Our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of – or shouldn’t be. As someone once said, we’re all naked under our clothes. But in front of the children? It’s one of those slightly awkward situations for parents. We’re never quite sure when it’s no longer ok. So when should your kids stop seeing you naked?
When they’re babies, there are no boundaries. We take a bath or shower with them without a second thought. Dress and undress in front of them. We’ll happily wander around without a stitch on if that’s what we’re used to doing.
As long as there are no sexual connotations, experts say seeing their parents naked has no adverse effect on a child. They simply accept it as the norm. But there will come a time when that changes. They might become shy about seeing you, or perhaps you’re suddenly aware they’re staring.
As with many aspects of parenting, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There’s no definite moment when it’s time to cover up. These points will help you decide what’s right for your family, and how to manage the change.
Do you feel uncomfortable?
If you’re uneasy about the level of interest your child shows in your body when you’re naked, you might want to cover up. Little kids are curious. They might ask questions, or they might point and giggle at your genitals. (And let’s face it, that can be intimidating.) If being naked around your child feels awkward or embarrassing, you probably need to do something about it.
Is your child uncomfortable?
Most children start to grasp the idea of privacy by the time they’re five or six years old. They might refuse to take a bath with their siblings or insist on closing the bedroom door when they get ready for bed. They might make it very clear they don’t want to be around you if you have no clothes on. If that’s the case, respect their feelings.
Consider gender and age differences
Nudity is less likely to become an issue at a young age between a parent and their child of the same gender. They’re not as fascinated by your body because it’s similar to their own. A father is more likely to feel awkward being naked around his four-year-old daughter than with his son of the same age. Similarly, younger children might not understand why their older sibling no longer wants to share a bath. You’ll need to explain the situation carefully so the younger child doesn’t feel rejected.
Set some boundaries
When you realise your child is no longer comfortable seeing you naked – or wants their own privacy – it’s time to talk about showing respect. An obvious example is making it a rule that everyone knocks before entering someone else’s bedroom. Or, if someone is in the shower, it’s not ok for anyone else to enter the bathroom without permission.
There are bound to be questions from your kids about your body and theirs. It’s important you answer honestly. Kids should know there’s no reason to feel awkward about their genitals or any other part of their body. Making them feel embarrassed about it now could affect them for years to come. Look on it as another part of their educations – it’s a biology lesson. There are plenty of good books around that can help you, so do some research and invest in a couple to make sure you’re prepared.
In most families, going from free-and-easy nudity to covering up is a natural progression. There’s no big debate or decision – it just happens. Try not to agonise over it, and don’t let it become a big deal.