Whether or not you personally gave birth to your kids, you probably don’t think much of your babies and toddlers seeing you naked. After all, you see them naked all the time — what with the bathing and the diaper-changing and all — so it doesn’t seem strange. Plus, if they’re young, it’s likely they don’t even know the difference or have any idea what being “naked” actually means. But when is it okay for kids to see their parents naked — and how old is too old? At what point can hanging around in your birthday suit with the fam have some sort of an impact on your child? Here’s what the experts have to say.
Does it impact kids psychologically?
Probably not. Licensed psychotherapist and marriage and family counselor Shirin Peykar tells SheKnows that “parental nudity doesn’t necessarily cause psychological issues in children.” That said, the attitude in which nudity is presented is key: “If the nudity is non-sexualized,” Peykar explains, “there shouldn’t be psychological effects on a child, especially if you’re all on the same page, are all consenting and are all comfortable with it.” And if your child shows discomfort around it, even without any inappropriate behavior or sexualization on the parent’s part, it’s time to put those clothes on whenever you’re around them.
But if the kids are cool with it, then there shouldn’t be any negative consequences to your daily nude wanderings between the shower and the bedroom. “In an 18-year longitudinal study of 200 male and female children, there was no harmful effect on any of the following areas: self-acceptance; relations with peers, parents and other adults; antisocial and criminal behavior; substance use; suicidal ideation; quality of sexual relationships; and problems associated with sexual relations,” says Peykar.
Does age play a role?
Yes. When kids are older, all that parental nudity can bring confusion. “A child may want to cuddle or be held when mom is naked. Children school-age and up should not be allowed to touch the parent’s body while naked,” says Dr. Lisa Lewis, a board-certified pediatrician and author of Feed the Baby Hummus. “As children learn socially appropriate rules surrounding naked bodies [allowing them to touch their naked parents] can be confusing for them,” she tells SheKnows.
“From a psychological perspective, there isn’t a recommended age to avoid being naked in front of your children. However, children may start to ask for privacy around age 4 or 5, which may indicate their discomfort with seeing parents naked as well,” adds Peykar.
Lewis agrees: “In our society, it is socially acceptable to be naked around your children until either the mom or the child is uncomfortable doing so. Most children will feel less comfortable about nudity when they are moving into the tween years,” she says. (No surprise there — the tweens we know are pretty uncomfortable about… most things.) “Also, in the tween years, it is important to teach children socially appropriate boundaries, such as dressing privately. For this reason, I suggest for moms to gently not allow their children to see them naked at approximately 9 and up,” she advises.
Does the sex of the child matter?
Sort of. You might want to end nudity sooner with opposite-sex kids; boys tend to feel uncomfortable around their naked moms sooner than girls, says Peykar. “With opposite-sex children, I recommend to be more mindful with children as they can show signs of discomfort,” she explains. Plus, you might feel weird about it too. “Moms will often note they are less comfortable as their sons get older because the son may have more questions and comments due to the differing physical appearance of their bodies,” adds Lewis. That said, if they do ask questions, it’s a great teaching opportunity to talk to your kids about bodies and consent.
How to handle the issue
Communication, communication, and more communication. “Parents should be ready for questions and comments from children about their [or] their parents’ bodies, which can be an informative conversation for children,” says Peykar. “This can facilitate the opportunity to teach younger children boundaries about their bodies,” Peykar says.
Plus, your being comfortable nude around your young children fosters a body-positive environment that sets a great example for them. “Children can develop a positive view of sexuality through their parents’ modeling of their comfort with it. This can cultivate a positive view of a child’s own sexuality in the future,” Peykar explains.
“As a psychotherapist, I believe that parents should follow their children’s lead,” says Peykar. It’s totally fine to bare it all or not — as long as it’s based on your child’s comfort level.