When our kids are babies, we bathe with them, change our clothes in front of them and yes, even bring them to the toilet with us…all without batting an eyelid. We use this time to bond with the little ones, keep an eye on them and let’s admit it, to stop them from banging on the closed door going “Are you done yet, mummy?”
If parental nudity is of a non-sexualised nature, experts say there is nothing to worry about as there is no negative impact on a young child. In fact, very young children will not think anything is wrong when they see adults in their birthday suits, nor will they have any lasting impressions of it.
That said, kids will grow up and there will come a time when they become shy about seeing their folks in the buff. So how old is too old, and when should parents start covering up in front of their kids?
The general consensus that when it comes to nudity, there is no one-age-fits-all as everyone’s families are different and have their own comfort levels.
If parental nudity is of a non-sexualised nature, experts suggest there is nothing to worry about as there is no negative impact on a young child.
Says Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre For Psychological Wellness, “In certain cultures, communal showering in families is common and not frowned upon. In others, parents are careful not to expose themselves to children of the opposite sex from a very young age.”
Psychologist Daniel Koh, who practises at Insight Minds Centre, believes that while there is no specific age, the best indication should come from your child’s level of maturity. By age 2, for instance, most toddlers will know their own genders and develop a sense of curiosity. By age three, they can identify with adults of the same gender and at the age of 6 or 7, they become aware of gender identity.
To help you figure out what's right for your family, consider these issues.
* Does it make you uncomfortable?
What are your own values when it comes to nudity in front of your kids? In some families, gender matters. H L Lim, a lawyer, shares a bath with his son but lets his wife bathe their daughter after she turned 3. “It’s just a preference and something I’m more comfortable with,” he says.
Also, if you are starting to feel awkward now that your child reacts to your nakedness by giggling, pointing at your genitals or talking about it to others in school, you might want to stop the practice at home.
* Does it make your child uncomfortable?
By age 6, most kids will understand the concept of privacy. You may find that, unlike before, they now refuse to bathe with their younger siblings, start to lock the bathroom door when they are inside or close their room door to get dressed. When they see you walking around naked, they might look away or even roll their eyes at what you are doing.
* Set boundaries
When this happens, it’s a good time to talk to your children to put boundaries in place. Dr Lim says it is important for parents to respect that their children no longer feel comfortable seeing them naked or being naked in front of them.
In most families, the boundaries arise naturally without prior planning. Mother of two Lily Ang says she started knocking on her daughter’s room door before entering when she noticed the girl becoming independent. “I wanted to show that I understood her need for privacy”.
It is important for parents to respect that their children no longer feel comfortable seeing them naked or being naked in front of them.
* Honesty is the best policy
How do you respond to your child’s questions about your “private parts”? Experts say that in non-sexualised situations, there really isn’t any reason to feel awkward about the human body.
Mr Koh has this advice, “Even before your children start to question you about parts of their body, it is actually a good idea to read them books on the subject matter. Do not get upset by such questions as you may send the message that it is wrong to talk about it.”
Adds Dr Lim, “Children will be curious about their body. It is a sign that your children trust you if they approach you with questions about their body parts or genitals. Be upfront and educate them. It is an anatomy lesson and there is nothing taboo or embarrassing. Giving them sound guidance beats them learning deviant practices from friends or the Internet.”
Incidentally, as children grow older, they may also become more distant physically. Other than not accepting parental nudity, they may not like to hold your hands or be hugged so often.
Dr Lim notes, “While, as parents, we may mourn the loss of our children’s childhood and innocence, we must always respect their privacy and accept (and be happy) that they have matured.”
Elsewhere on SmartParents.sg…