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Lots of questions about nudity come my way. One example: “My daughter and her husband shower with their 3- and 5- year old children (both girls) and apparently walk around nude in front of them. The girls use the terms “penis” and “nipples” in front of others. Their parents think this is “healthy” and “cute.” What do you think?”
I don’t see anything wrong with parents appearing nude in front of YOUNG CHILDREN. I think it’s healthy when parents feel comfortable enough about their own bodies and their own sexuality to bathe and undress in front of their young children as though this was the most natural thing in the world–which it is.
This gives a clear message to the child that there is nothing shameful or bad about bodies. It enables children to notice that people come in two varieties and therefore Mommy and Daddy look different. It also gives the child a natural opportunity to ask time-honored questions such as, “How come you have one and I don’t?” or “How come yours are bigger than mine?” And it gives the parents a natural opportunity to name body parts accurately and matter-of-factly.
I feel just as strongly that parents should NOT continue to walk around naked indefinitely. Why? 1) children must learn about the importance of PRIVACY in our culture and 2) parental nudity is overly stimulating for older pre-schoolers.
At what age should parents stop appearing naked in front of their children? I advise parents to be aware of their own feelings. Would you feel uncomfortable if a neighbor child the same age as your child saw you naked? For most of us that age is probably somewhere between 2 and 3. If you would feel uncomfortable without clothes in front of a neighbor child that age, this is the time to stop appearing naked in front of your own child.
Is it absolutely necessary that parents appear nude in front of their children? Of course not! If you feel uncomfortable, don’t do it. You can teach your children about bodies and the fact people come in two varieties by using books.
But it won’t be the end of the world if your child accidently walks in on you in a state of undress, provided you handle it in a matter-of-fact way. “Please let me get a towel.” or “I like to get dressed in private.” What you should not do is freak out. Don’t ever make your children feel there is something bad or shameful about bodies, yours or theirs.
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