Is it Okay to be Naked in Front of Your Kids?
Fact-checked by HeHe Stewart, Doula and birthing expert. HeHe is the founder of a Maternity Concierge, Doula and Birthing Service in the Boston area.
There are so many decisions to make when it comes to having a baby. From getting the necessary baby gear to planning a college fund to having hypothetical questions about disciplining kids, it can get overwhelming...and that's just the beginning. Once your tiny human is here, you'll be faced with "quick set decisions." These are decisions you'll have to make in the moment and have no way of knowing that curveball was headed your way. Welcome to parenthood.
Much like the relay races we did in elementary school, parenthood can be boiled down to similar categories like a 100-yard dash chasing after a toddler who has been asked, "What's in your mouth?," a three-legged race with your partner trying to keep the house from burning down on a casual Thursday afternoon, and sometimes life feels like a potato sack race with all your family members diving and crashing in one general direction, but with a clear lack of organization.
One of these quick set decisions that many parents are unprepared for is being naked in front of their child once they are no longer a teeny baby. Let me be clear that there is no right or wrong answer here, BUT there are definite things to consider before you get buck-naked with your mini-me.
More: 4 Discipline Strategies to Use With Highly Sensitive Kids
Consider the Future
What messages are you sending while you're naked? Are you telling yourself that you shouldn't have had that brownie and making ugly comments about the cellulite on your legs? Then maybe being naked in front of your child isn't the most empowering thing you can do for your child's future relationship with themself. However, if you have found a place of self-love or you're committed to getting there, then being naked in front of your child can be the best motivator. It also allows your child the amazing benefits of seeing someone they look-up to walk the journey of body positivity. Cheers to raising humans of all shapes and sizes! Cheers to a body positive future.
Getting undressed in front of your child is the perfect opportunity to teach about consent. You will want to have a conversation with your child about who is safe and who isn't when it comes to being naked. You'll want to discuss who is safe to touch their body (diaper cream, bathing, toileting). Children will obviously need adults that are safe to go to when they need help with their genitals. It's extremely important to communicate to your child who those people are and how to handle a situation if anyone outside of that circle asks to see or touch their genitals. They will probably want to know what to do if it does happen and its best to have an answer prepared. Be sure to consider this from your child's perspective. If your child doesn't ask, you should share with them what to do if they think someone has overstepped boundaries with their body if it's age appropriate.
Consider Your Child’s Safety
You want to teach your child about being safe when they get undressed. This will be heavily rooted in the foundation that you set when you chatted about consent. In this discussion, you'll want to begin to lay the groundwork of reading other people's body language.
Consider Socially-Appropriate Actions
This is not to be confused with societal expectations (raising your child to believe typical social constructs of gender), rather what is appropriate (what is socially acceptable/safe). This will also loop back to the talk about consent. You will have the chance to remind your child of people who are safe to go to for "body information" and you can teach that it's not appropriate to go around without pants outside of your home.
You want better for your child than you had, right? Isn't that every parent’s dream—to pave the way for their child? That desire will only get you so far. You, as a human, have to constantly be working on yourself and growing as a parent to a [toddler, child, pre-teen, graduating senior, adult child, and adult child that's now a grandparent ]. You are responsible for continuing your own personal development so you are the best mentor and sounding board for your child. When you find yourself at a roadblock in parenting, it's always an opportunity to look inside yourself, too. This may be the perfect time to put yourself first so you can serve your family better.
All in all, being naked in front of your child is a calculated decision because it will directly impact the way your child learns to love and interact with their body. The way you speak to and about your own body will be absorbed by your child. If you can let it all hang out and model underlying gratitude and acceptance for every curve (no matter how big or small), then go for it. If you want to share the journey of growth with your child and show them that self love is not a linear journey, rather a radical walk with your deeper self, then share away. But, if you struggle with self-confidence and body image, I urge you to be cautious with what you allow your child to see and hear.
Quick Guide to Building a Body-Positive Foundation in Young Children:
- Be sure to build your child up with kind words about their body and shape. For younger children you can say, "I love your belly, it makes me want to tickle you!!!" For older kids, you can comment on their abilities like, "You're a very fast runner," or "You're very strong."
- Share with them how to make healthy choices and provide them with a safe space to ask questions and share concerns. Offer fruit and veggies as an afternoon snack vs. cookies, and if your child asks for cookies, explain that they can have one cookie after dinner (or whenever you feel appropriate).
- Leave shame out of the game. Children explore. It's what they do. It's how they learn. They also deserve to know about and understand their own bodies. They may explore during diaper changes or bath time. This is a great opportunity to talk about their body parts.
- Answer their questions honestly and use anatomical terms so they know how to communicate about their bodies when it comes time.
Our children will have much bigger problems than body positivity to correct in the future, so let's set them up for success with a foundation of self love.
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HeHe is an experienced Doula, Childbirth consultant and Infant Feeding Specialist. She is the founder of a Maternity Concierge, Doula and Birthing Service in Boston, MA.