How would you feel if you saw your parents naked around the house growing up? Is it harmful to be naked in front of your kids, or could there possibly be any good that could arise from this?
There are so many different ways to raise a child across so many aspects of the child’s life, ranging from feeding, discipline to screen time and fitness. Invariably, parents who choose a particular way instead of another also have to suffer the well-intentioned comments and judgments of those who disagree. But, what about being naked in front of your kids?
To be clear, this refers to non-sexual displays of nudity. This would include taking a bath with your children or choosing not to be modest while walking around the house.
There are arguments which claim that when parents and young kids feel comfortable being naked around each other, it can encourage children to develop self-esteem and body image. Children may then feel comfortable to ask questions about their bodies at age and hopefully get answers from their parents.
Furthermore, children get a sense of what a normal body looks like, rather than what you would see in cartoons, magazines and billboards. This causes children to grow in body positivity and to come to embrace that bodies come in different sizes and that there is no superiority/ inferiority in looking one way or another.
Finally, it can help to unlink nudity with sexuality. When children see their mother breastfeeding a sibling or when the family goes skinny dipping, children may experience neutral moments of nudity or memories of body positivity which would help them when they start comparing their bodies with others. The family is one of the few places where children can see nude human bodies that are not being marketed in advertisements or sexualised.
However, the caveat here is that both parents and children must be comfortable about the nudity. Being naked in front of one’s kids can be very uncomfortable because of one’s upbringing, especially if one’s parents had not done so, or because of one’s personality.
Furthermore, even if parents are personally comfortable with being naked in front of the kids, the children are likely to get comments and questions about their bodies. Especially when the child is not the same sex as the parent, there may be questions about differences. Yet, more unabashed parents could also turn this into a teachable moment about the human body
Additionally, if either parent is uncomfortable with the nudity in front of the children, the children would likely be sensitive enough to pick up on the discomfort. Thus, instead of promoting body acceptance, this would sour the children’s experience of the body and its naturalness with the tension of the uncomfortable parent’s cringing emotions.
Importance of proper boundaries
How can parents teach their children about body safety and the importance of consent when parental nudity is practised?
While embracing nudity in the home may be established by the parent, it is important to set proper boundaries around nudity. For instance, children may need to be told that the clothing-optional mindset only applies at home when there are no guests around. Thus, they would have to put on clothes when they are at other people’s homes or when people come to visit.
However, boundaries can become blurred. Many parents have a particular issue regarding fathers and their daughters. There is a greater reluctance in allowing a father to be fully undressed in front of the daughter. Thus, the daughter would learn that there is never a reason for an adult man to not have clothes on around her.
Ultimately, parents would have to learn about how to talk about sex in a healthy way. This includes body safety issues about appropriate touching of genitals or learning to set boundaries for oneself. Parents would have to sense the child’s development and parental nudity can be phased out when children start developing a heightened sense of modesty.
YouTube: Watch this video to see how a group of parents teach their children about consent
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- Do you think parental nudity would be considered acceptable in Singapore? Why or why not?
- How should parents teach their children about body acceptance and body positivity? Should schools be involved in this? If so, how?
- ‘caveat’: a warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations
- ‘unabashed’: not embarrassed, disconcerted, or ashamed
Here are more related articles for further reading:
- The Guardian: Parental nudity helps children better understand consent and boundaries
“One of the main benefits to seeing a parent naked is that a child gets to see what a normal, naked adult body looks like. “The bodies they will see in the media and porn are not typical, women just don’t look like that,” explains Amy Lang, a child sexual health educator.
By contrast, seeing women with stretch marks, pubic hair and lumpy parts gives children more realistic expectations. To see women’s naked bodies in a desexualized way can also help children to understand that women are more than just objects, and that their bodies are not inherently shameful.
“Kids are super curious. If they want to see what boobs look like, they will Google it. It’s better that they have resources to learn about the body which are safe,” she says.
Some fear exposing a child to nudity will ruin them in some way, or at least embarrass them – but these concerns are unfounded. “All the evidence we see is to the contrary,” says Lang. Because family nudity gives children an opportunity to talk about boundaries, bodies and safety, children who see their parents’ naked bodies are actually safer from sexual abuse, she says.
It also means that they have a better model for talking about sex in a healthy way. If your first experience seeing a naked body results in the conversation shutting down, a child may think they can’t talk to their parents about their body, or that there is something wrong with it, says Lang.”
- Business Insider: Unusual parenting practices from around the world
“Adults in Italy aren’t the only ones sipping on a glass of red with dinner — their kids are, too. According to a study by Boston University Medical Center, Italian children who were raised with wine at dinnertime were less likely to develop “harmful drinking patterns” in adulthood.
Wine and the responsible consumption of it is so important to Italians that it’s included in the primary school curriculum, where students start learning about their country’s wine culture at six years old, The Daily Mail reports.
And while Italian kids are raised to be responsible drinkers, French kids are raised to be sophisticated eaters. French kids eat the same nutritious, balanced meals as adults, says University of British Columbia Professor Karen Le Billon in her book, “French Kids Eat Everything.””