Turns out this is a tough question to answer. I spoke with Nancy Brooks M.S., PsyD (can) who works with children and teens here in Lancaster. As you can imagine, there is no “right” answer for every family.
When is it no longer OK for your child to see you naked?
It depends on how you want your child to view nudity. Some people believe that as soon as children can spot differences in males and females that they should be shielded from parental nudity. While that is not harmful, neither is a child seeing parents naked until they are around 6-7. Much passed that, it can become an issue for some children. More importantly than simply seeing parents naked, are the discussions about nudity; it’s important to explain to children that while we may allow members of our family or our doctor to see us naked, we do not allow anyone else in the neighborhood or at school to do so.
Why are some cultures so different in respects to nudity?
Europeans have always been comfortable with nudity and do not protect children from nudity, whether in the home, in art, or at the beach. Americans developed a fear of the naked body during Puritan times. The differences in lackadaisical versus uptight may explain why Americans are diagnosed and treated for more sexual disorders, more sexual perversions, and more sexual addictions.
What can a family looking to normalize nudity and the human body do?
The human body is the one thing we all have in common. If we talk about it and treat it as if it’s normal, it will be. Be aware of the messages you send to your children by way of your words and actions. Remember, children don’t do as we say – they do as we do. If parents jumps to hide their naked body every time a child walks in the room that sends a message. Provide children with books about their body so it is not taboo. Teach them the proper names of body parts and don’t shame them if you find them touching themselves. It is their body; allow them to explore it.
What to do about extended family giving negative feedback?
It’s always okay to step in and gently remind other people that their belief is not your belief and you teach your children differently. Then, be sure to explain to your child that you and your spouse believe differently. Explain why, and tell them that they have a right to learn different opinions and decide for themselves.
What about men? What about the fear of society seeing it as a form of abuse?
A child seeing a naked man is not abuse. A naked man cuddling with a child over the age of 1.5 is not recommended, but if a man is naked and a child crawls into bed, nobody needs to make a big deal of it. Parents know when children are curious and if something makes the adult questions it – then they should change it.
How to tell if the child is uncomfortable with adult nudity?
Children are more curious than uncomfortable. If they are uncomfortable that is a red flag that they have learned from someone else that a naked body is not okay, or they have experienced something that made them uncomfortable, such as being forced to touch an adult in a sexual manner.
Does a child comfortable with adult nudity have a higher risk of sexual
abuse because it is normalized?
1 out of every 4 girls and 1 out of every 7 boys in this country is sexually abused by (more often) a male they know. This abuse is perpetrated by countless men. It is no longer a few men with thousands of victims, but countless men with many victims. There is no correlation between being comfortable with nudity and being sexually abused, but it is possible that displays of nudity could raise a child’s risk. If there is even a question that the child may be at risk, I urge parents not to take that chance.
When did(will) you stop letting your little one see you naked? Let us know in the comments.