Ummm, at what age do you let your child of the opposite sex no longer see you naked?
Right now my 17 month-old son is with me in the bathroom & as I get dressed. He's starting to point "things" out and I'm starting to wonder if I need to change my routine! I don't want him to develop body issues…but…
Any thoughts would be appreciated as your site is the BEST parent advice site I've found that doesn't have a bunch of negative comments!
(I left that last bit about "best parent advice" and the lack of negative comments because it's so important for you to KNOW what we've created here together. A safe-yet-honest place to talk about raising kids. That's a big deal. I am always in awe of the quality of the conversation — thank you for your collective awesomeness.)
The answer obviously varies by culture, personal boundaries, and age of kid. In my experience, kids take their cues about body issues from us. How we feel about our bodies, our body parts, and about nudity in general.
When kids are young, pointing out "stuff" about Mom's and Dad's bodies helps them learn in the most natural way possible. A low-key, straightforward answer usually does the trick. It might feel a little weird, but so do plenty of other kid-parent conversations about personal subjects. Doesn't mean they shouldn't happen.
As kids get older, the conversation changes. The body parts discussion veers toward bodily functions. This, too, is best handled openly and without embarrassment (as much as possible). Give kids only as much information as they ask for. Less makes them wonder why you're being vague, more isn't necessary. They'll ask for more soon enough.
TMI alert for the next couple paragraphs. Just sayin'.
I have a 12 year-old son and an 8 year-old daughter. We generally get dressed in our own rooms. But we only have one full bathroom in our house, and when my husband or I shower, the door's often open so other people can brush their teeth or whatever. Sometimes a kid will see a parent post-shower-pre-towel. We don't make a big deal about it.
HOWEVER, I regularly ask both kids if they're OK seeing us naked, and with us seeing them naked. Does it bother them or make them feel weird? If either of them said yes, I would respect it and make a bigger effort to keep the door closed, or to give them privacy when they need it.
Especially as kids approach puberty, it's crucial to be mindful of physical boundaries. My son does not want my husband or me around when he's getting dressed or showering. No problem. But if he's got a physical or medical problem or question, he's comfortable talking to us about it, and showing us if necessary.
Another angle on the boundary issue: parents' sexuality. Every kid cringes at the thought of his parents having sex. While I think it's important and wonderful for the kids to see us being affectionate and loving toward each other, anything sexual or otherwise gag-inducing stays private.
Setting the stage for up-front communication about body issues makes the eventual sexual questions a lot easier for everyone to handle. I think it's comforting for my kids to know that if they ask one of us a potentially embarrassing question, we won't get all twitchy and evasive, or over-emotional (neither sentimental nor judgemental). We'll just answer them and move on.
So, there you have it: way more than you ever wanted to know about us naked.
What about you, Parenthackers? How do you talk about nudity and body issues in your family?
Related: Talking to your kids about puberty
And: When children ask "what's sexual assault?" — how do you answer? Amazing discussion.