Parental nudity: How old is too old for your kids to see you naked?
Is it ok for your toddler to see you or your partner naked? At what age does it start getting inappropriate for kids to be exposed to parental nudity? Get some advice from the experts!
When your little one was still a baby, you didn't think twice about parental nudity or changing your clothes in front of her -- especially if she was breastfed back then -- nor did you feel anything was wrong with climbing into the tub with your tot to splash about together during bath time.
But when your child has started to talk, is able to ask questions and is generally more observant of everything around him, you might begin to wonder whether you should stop parading around topless when she's in the same room as you, and if you should start taking showers alone now.
Would it be detrimental to your kid's health in any way if he constantly sees mommy and daddy naked?
And when exactly should you start covering up around her?
Effects on kids exposed to parental nudity
Some people might argue that letting your young child see you in the nude is indecent and possibly even sexual abuse, but an 18-year study on Early Childhood Exposure to Parental Nudity and Scenes of Parental Sexuality shows that there is no long-term negative effect in adolescents who were regularly exposed to parental nudity before the age of six.
However, the study also showed that if young children were exposed to scenes of their parents' sexuality, or "primal scenes", boys were more less likely to risk getting an STD infection or impregnating someone during their adolescent years; whereas girls were more likely to be at risk of contracting an STD or accidentally becoming pregnant in their teens.
On the other hand, some other research suggests that older children who were still exposed to parental nudity between the ages of 6 to 11-years-old showed permissive attitudes about sex and were more likely to engage in casual sexual relationships.
Results from the same research also showed that three to five-year-old boys who regularly saw their parents naked actually had a more positive self-image about their bodies.
So is there an exact age?
There is actually no specific age when you have to stop flashing your bare bosom in front of your kids or streaking from the bathroom all the way across the house in your birthday suit to grab a fresh clean towel from the laundry room.
Dr Monica Wonnacott, Paediatrician at Granger Medical Clinic Riverton (USA), suggests that this might be when your child is about three-years-old, but there are several factors that will determine exactly when the parental nudity should end in your household.
This includes your own:
- Cultural norms
- Personal beliefs
- Family values
- Child's development and maturity
- Child's sense of modesty
According to Susanne Ayers Denham, Ph.D., a Developmental Psychologist and author of Emotional Development in Young Children, you should also pay attention to your little one's emerging sense of herself and her own body (which usually occurs after her second birthday).
"Once your toddler begins to grasp that she has control over her own body as an individual, she may start to resist you when you change her diaper or clothes in public. At this point she may also be sensing that public nudity doesn't jive with the rules of polite society. If she starts reacting to your nakedness with signs of embarrassment such as silly smiles, giggling, or shielding her eyes with her hand, it's probably smart to cover up", she explains.
More advice from the experts
According to Ask Dr. Sears, children around the age of four or five would have developed their sense of modesty by showing signs like covering up their genitals with their hands when someone enters the room.
Dr. Alan Kazdin, Director of the Yale Parenting Center (USA) also reminds parents that we have our own culture, religion and individual attitudes about the body.
He recommends for parents to observe whether your child has started to show signs of being uncomfortable with your nudity and also to “take cues from your child and from your own values.”
Although the exact age may vary, studies and experts all seem to agree that it is better for parental nudity to cease when your child is the official school age of six to seven-years-old.
What do some parents feel about parental nudity?
"Actually I was ok with being naked around my daughter until she was maybe six or seven years old. But with my son, it's a bit different. I think ever since I stopped breastfeeding him at two years plus, that's when I also slowly started feeling a bit more awkward showing my exposed body to him." - Linny T. (mother of two)
"Of course I won't let my teenage son see me naked, nor would my husband walk around without any clothes on in front of our teenage daughter! We should teach our kids to be modest from a young age so that they will grow up with good values." - Nina R. (mother of two)
"I feel that it's fine because it's not like I'm doing anything obscene in front of my child. I'll definitely draw the line when she starts to run away shrieking with embarrassment -- which I guess is probably when she is in Primary School?" - Is M. (father of one)
"It's just nudity. Underneath our clothes, we are all naked. Our kids will be exposed to nudity some way or another, either by watching something on the internet, or seeing their friends in the changing room after a P.E lesson in school, or being exposed to classical paintings and statues, or by noticing a mother breastfeed her baby. There's nothing to be ashamed of. It's just a bit of extra flesh and skin." - Miriam S (mother of three)
Remember to be body positive
As your child grows older and is becoming more aware of her own body, it's important for you to respect her personal boundaries and privacy.
Set a good example for your little one by saying positive things about your own body, and also refrain from making fun of your child's looks or body in any way (even if you think it's just a harmless joke).
It's also healthy to talk openly about the body and make it clear to her that she can approach you with any questions or concerns she might have.
Do you think it's ok for children to be exposed to parental nudity? At what age do you think your kids should stop seeing you and your partner naked? Share your views with us by leaving a comment below!
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore