13.2.12

controversial question: nudity & kids

OK people. We're in a stage of parenting where we're trying to make some solid decisions about some controversial issues. I'm genuinely curious about your thoughts regarding this so please feel free to share them. I haven't made up my own mind on the matters yet, and promise not to judge any comments/opinions made here.

So. Kids and nudity. I'm wondering at what age you all think it's inappropriate for kids to see their parents naked? Does this change for parents of the same sex as their child? Or is it a general rule, black and white? What do you do (or plan to do) with your children? What did your parents do when you were growing up?

Furthermore, at what age is it inappropriate for kids to see other kids naked? I seem to remember having baths with other kids when I was little (cousins, friends of the family, etc). I'm including siblings of the opposite sex in this question.

Full disclosure: Right now, we don't have rules against it. We have a huge jacuzzi tub as our only bath, so every other night when I bathe Lily, I jump right in. We're also not big on closing doors when using the bathroom around here (unless there's company over, obviously). But Lily is 17 months and I think she's starting to notice things. Hence, the blog post. Also, I've always been comfortable naked in front of my mom, sister, and practically any female friend, (and vice versa) if the situation arose (change rooms, bathrooms, etc).

Please share your thoughts!
ps - just saw an article on the topic!

20 comments:

  1. I'm not a parent, but I'd say based on my family experience... I didn't really see my parents naked (maybe my mom? no real memories) but I did see my siblings and I think it just gave my parents opportunities to teach us about the differences between boys and girls + "stranger danger" conversations (ie: "your body is your own! no one should EVER touch it!).

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    1. thanks for sharing Jess, I absolutely value your opinion! doesn't matter that you're not a mom in the least. good point about Stranger Danger.

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  2. Hmmm... I don't know where I stand on this one exact either. Hoping I have some time before I have to decide! Personally I don't think Lily noticing things means it's time to end the girls' bath time, though you may have to figure out how this impacts what goes on with dad.

    I think at her age noticing things and curiosity provide openings for learning what stuff is and how boys and girls are different before she is old enough to be embarrassed by the conversation. When she innocently inquires I think that's a great time to communicate that there's nothing wrong or shameful and start her off on the right foot with body image and being mature about stuff.

    I let my 15 month olds in our room when I'm changing but I have to be honest when they stare at me it kind of makes me self-conscious so I don't do it often. I know they aren't making any connections but I'm not used to an audience! I too remember bathing with siblings and cousins for a long time but I think there's a different line for adults than fellow kids.

    This has got me thinking...

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    1. good point - curiosity isn't bad. I think it scares me a bit but I need to remember that it's normal and Lily's little mind isn't thinking what an adult's would be if they saw another person naked...

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  3. I grew up just my Mom and I...so my experience is VERY different..but I still see my mom naked and she still see's me naked. It's not like I walk around naked, but if we're staying over at her house I'll peek my head in to her bathroom if she's having a bath and ask her a question. We had an open door policy because it was just the two of us and it never made either of us uncomfortable.

    I also had baths with my mom probably way too late in life (I don't remember how old...but old). I feel like a hippie saying this...haha! But anyway, I don't feel "scarred" or anything. However, I have never seen my Dad naked (for obvious reasons). Once I walked in on him peeing and I was forever scarred. So, I think that same-sex nakedness is good for as long as you feel comfortable. I think that opposite sex nakedness (with parents, and brothers) should probably stop before 5.

    Also, for sibling baths, I think it's okay until a child FEELS naked. I remember when I was 5 my aunt made me bathe with my two younger boy cousins. I HATED it! I felt so...so embarrassed and uncomfortable. But, I had baths with female cousins at that age and never felt weird.

    Anyway -- that's my opinion. I imagine my daughter will see me naked for a long time, and vice versa...but not her Dad or future brothers (if she has any).

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    1. me too Bri. growing up we were very open with female relatives (aunts, grandma, mom, sister, cousins). nudity was nothing. but with male relatives, obviously we weren't the same. I like your point about "when a child FEELS naked". Which will be different for every child, but probably around 3-5 I'd imagine...

      On the other hand, I've had accidental walk-ins like you mentioned with your dad and not been scarred in the least.

      With Lily and Oli so close in age, I'll be dealing with the siblings of the opposite sex question soon and I don't have a close since I never had brothers :p

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    2. I think the "feeling naked" point is excellent. I think I had baths with my brothers up until the age of about 6 or 7 and my brothers were toddlers / in infancy. I think it would have been a slightly different story if we were closer in age. I also remember seeing my young cousins naked and asking my mom why their "thingies" looked different than my brothers "thingies"... but I was much too young for the circumcision discussion and there was no stopping it at that point. So yeah... age 5 or the age of understanding nakedness (if it's earlier) is probably a good age.

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    3. I think this was a great post Emily that stirred tons of thoughts and looks like you have a variety of responses!!

      PS: I was probably really freaked out about walking in on my dad in the bathroom because I didn't really know him that well, I'm sure that would be a semi-common occurrence in a home where males are living!

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    4. Daniel10.6.12

      I was just thinking about this yesterday and I already feel uncomfortable being naked in front of my less than 1 month year old! So I prob wont bathe with her but for Bri to is fine with me! I don't remember really seeing my parents naked much, only my dad if we went to a pool and had to have showers or something. But I see from pictures me and my brothers used to have baths with family friends of the opposite sex and we looked pretty old! But we didn't look embarrassed or anything. I agree if the child finds it awkward then don't do it, but if not, then go ahead, I just wont be bathing naked with my daughter anytime soon!

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  4. So I typed and typed and now I have an opinion! Everything deleted:

    I think it's valuable for the same gender child to see the same gender parent naked after you think they start "noticing things", but not the opposite gender. The reason I think this is because it gives kids a healthy understanding of what it is to look like a "normal" man or woman so they aren't deriving their ideas entirely from the media. My mom has always been very comfortable with nudity around me (only me, not my brothers) and it helped me shape a sense of security and a healthy understanding that I don't need to look like whatever girl on the cover of Cosmo we see at the grocery store looks like. Either way, kids are unfortunately going to be exposed to nakedness one way or another, and if they at least have an understanding of what is normal (airbrushed = not normal) they may be slightly more comfortable in their own skin. Just a personal thought.

    In terms of seeing the other parent naked... once children are at an age where they not only notice but remember things, it's probably good to keep nudity to a minimum with opposite-gendered parents. I say this only because I have memories of seeing my dad naked, and although it didn't scar me, I wouldn't say it's helpful in any way at all.

    My exclusion would be when it comes to breastfeeding - moms should be comfortable to breastfeed around siblings - because I think breastfeeding is something everyone needs to be at least comfortable being around, nevermind seeing.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Sam. I especially like your point about REAL female/male examples for our children (of the same gender), instead of our kids thinking nudity in the media or pornography (sad to say, but they may be exposed to it, despite our best efforts) is the norm and what to aim for.

      And also regarding what's hurtful and helpful... Like I said in my comment to Bri, I certainly wasn't scarred, but it's probably not a GOOD thing (just because it's not a HORRIBLY thing)

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  5. This post is helpful as Hannah is just starting to notice too! I tend to agree that its okay with same sex parents and having the baths, but maybe starting to be more careful about the dad and little girl seeing things! I also would agree that for bathing siblings is a good thing, I had a sister close to my age but my brother and sister that are younger always bathed together until probably my sister was 6 and bro was 4 and I think it was that my sister felt naked and noticed that way. But its healthy and good to see what the body is like. Now I have always been on the side of the fence that you say what something is and not make up fake words for a kid to learn and then just learn the real word later (and its okay if they have their own version of the real word, at least they came up with it and its not confusing), but at the same time I'm a little hesitant to tell Hannah real body part words that she can learn and say since she is really starting to try and repeat words. Im kind of having nightmares of Hannah saying "penis" or "boob" over and over and over again in public! That is something she would do! What is your approach to that? "Pee pee" just sounds nicer and more kid appropriate, but I dont know! Not that I want her saying that all over either!

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    1. true that Rach. A whole 'nother blog post is due to discuss kids and private parts/potty training/naming/etc. I have NO CLUE what to do when that day comes so I'm thankful for the blogging community :)

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  6. I just got a chance to read through everyone's responses and I think you guys said some really good stuff I'm going to remember for my kids. Because they are the same age but different genders I think I need to take this stuff into account and watch for when they're ready for more privacy. I do everything for them together right now - bath, diapers, dressing, etc. - and it would be easy to stay in that routine too long because we all get used to it. I definitely agree with the concept of "noticing your nakedness", it's similar to potty training when they say that a kid suddenly has the desire for privacy.

    My mom was not a nudity person so I have almost no memory of that myself. But I was also a shy kid who had no desire to be involved in a nudist colony in our home anyways. :) But I had a sister and we were alway okay with that stuff.

    I agree with what you said, Em, sometimes it's easy as an adult to think that their curiosity about the human body has something to do with sex but it totally doesn't. Teaching them about their bodies and how they work and how we are different can be a totally different learning experience than the birds and bees condo that comes later. That's a whole different issue eh!

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  7. convo*. hopefully it's not a whole condo of birds and bees. HA. oh spell correction.

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    1. a condo FULL of birds and bees. literally or figuratively that's troubs ;)

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  8. Hey! I just read your post and know that this is tricky topic to tackle. I am the oldest of six kids, four girls and two boys, and we only had on bathroom in our house till i was ten. We always had baths together (untill we were to big to all fit in the bath tub). When we were old enough to know about boy parts and girls parts (ages 3-5 depending on the maturity/knowledge level of the child) the girls were only naked around girls and the boys were only naked around boys (that is really awkward wording but whatevs). Let me clarify that we were not nudists but when we were getting ready to go somewhere it wasn't a big deal if someone was in the shower, someone was hopping out, someone was peeing and two people were getting ready in the same bathroom. Likewise I could go and have a conversation with my mom while she was in the bath. And from time to time people would run down to the laundry room to grab some clothes in their underwear or walk around bundled up in a towel. Also we use the bathroom with the door open. I know that this is not the way everyone was raised but it worked really well with my family. I think that it has made me comfortable with my body and I don't think the changes that came with puberty were as shocking because I knew what the female body looked like. Its a very relaxed atmosphere to grow up in and I plan to raise my kids that way to. I really hope that this post doesn't come off as weird and nudist like because its not. Really its up to you guys and what is right for your family but I say go for it!

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    1. Katie, thanks for commenting.

      You don't sound like a "nudist" whatsoever! In fact, it sounds a lot like how I was raised and what we're comfortable with around here too.

      We plan to have 4 kids, with at least one of each gender (that we know for sure since we have one of each lol!), so these experiences are great for me to be aware of, since they'll be our reality in a few years.

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  9. Coming from a large family, I can relate a LOT to what Katie wrote. Same for us, we always barged in on Mom in the bathroom or tub. My parents walked out of the bathroom with towels on, didn't mind changing in front of any of us & slept without pjs. We all knew that & as we got older, most of us adopted similar practices/philosophies about nudity, as in we're not self-conscious or modest about it.

    It is interesting to observe the younger kids when I'm at home. Some of my siblings (the younger boys) are really sensitive to seeing even the tiniest bit of skin & get upset if the girls are walking around in their underwear or changing in front of them. The girls in general all seem a bit more relaxed & comfortable with whatever. Some of my brothers took FOREVER in the shower & wanted a lot of privacy in there but overall, we are all very comfortable to go in to pee while others are showering or in the bath.

    I have never really considered doing anything different with Sebby than what I saw my parents model. Sebby seems way more interested in Darren's body, maybe because he's a boy or maybe because he sees him naked less often??? I take Sebby into the bathroom & put him in his high chair while I shower every day and always get dressed in front of him. So far, he hasn't seemed phased by it, he just thinks its normal. He just discovered his nipples last week and likes to look at them every day in the bath. I don't think I'll change anything until he starts to feel uncomfortable??!! We'll see.

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