Nothing’s cuter than a naked baby enjoying freedom from diapers and clothes. Naked toddlers are pretty cute too, as they splash in the tub or walk around with nothing on but a smile and a parent’s shoes. Things change around preschool and kindergarten age, when kids pick up on other peoples’ attitudes about sexuality and develop their own ideas. Since parents help shape children’s attitudes, it pays to be mindful of the messages being sent.
In some families, nudity is acceptable for parents and kids. In other families, everyone is fully dressed in front of each other at all times. A lot of families fall in the middle, with some nudity accepted until children reach a certain age or developmental stage – often around toddlerhood.
Is it time to knock off the nudity?
Is there an age at which kids and/or parents should stop being naked around each other? That’s a question every family answerd based on their values and personal experiences.
One mom told me that by age three, her son and daughters could recite acceptable places to be undressed (at home without guests, in the doctor’s office, in the swimming pool locker room, etc.) Said the mom, “Until the age of three or three and one-half, looking at other bodies can help them to gauge where they fit into the animal kingdom. After that age, adults need not act as if being naked is a taboo.”
Another mom told me, “The last time my Dad gave me a bath, I must have been about four. He told me that it would be the last time because I was going to be starting school soon and daddies did not see their daughters without clothes once they got to be big girls.”
Seven Notes on Nudity
- If you are more comfortable with nudity than your child is, respect your child’s comfort level. Throw on a robe during conversations, and put on some clothes before cuddling.
- If you prefer maintaining your privacy, don’t freak out if your child sees you naked or half dressed. Calmly cover yourself and say you need a minute alone to get dressed. Later, remind your child to request permission before opening a closed bedroom or bathroom door.
- Public bathroom stalls make respecting modesty challenging, but not impossible. If your child likes privacy but is too young to go in a stall alone, avert your eyes and balance your checkbook, file your nails, or dig for a wayward coupon in your bag. Gain your own privacy by keeping a toy handy for bathroom stops or by letting your child play with the ring tones on your phone (use the low volume setting so you don’t bother others in the bathroom!).
- If your child sees you naked and asks a question about your body, perhaps, “Dad, why are your testicles so hairy?” keep your answer simple. Or, tell your child you’ll answer as soon as you’re dressed. Remain calm, even if you’ve been caught off guard – if you start stammering, your child may think it was wrong to be curious.
- If your child wants to help you dress but you prefer privacy, you might say, “After I’m dressed, would you like to pick out earrings or socks for me to wear?”
- Teach children that they own their bodies and all the rights to it, which means that no one, including peers, relatives or non-family members, should ask them to take their clothes off (except for bed, bath, doctor visits, etc.). They do not need details about child abuse, since the point is to educate them, not terrify them.
- Teach children not to pressure other kids or siblings to get naked.