When Should Parents Stop Being Naked Around Their Children?

Alicia C. poses a question we've all likely asked ourselves silently: "At what point should we stop being naked in front of our kids? Is there a 'magic number' at which parental nudity suddenly becomes a problem for children?"

Here are three questions and perspectives to consider as you figure out what's right for you.

1. Is Your Child Uncomfortable?

Trish P. says that the moment at which parental nudity becomes inappropriate is when your child starts posing questions about "private parts." She believes that once children are aware enough to notice and ask about breasts, penises, etc., parents should avoid being around their kids naked. Christina H. covers up because her 3-year-old is in the "laughing and pointing" stage.

I believe these questions and reactions are more likely to signal a child's curiosity than his discomfort, but I do think there's an argument for teaching your child about privacy (his own and yours) when he's old enough to understand it. For example, I would like to be able to close the door and go to the bathroom without taking my toddler with me — not because it's inappropriate that he's there, but because it's one of the few opportunities I have to take a break from his constant activity! Still, I don't see the harm in all of us marching around the house naked, especially in the context of bathing or dressing.

In many families, gender matters; Trish's toddler-age sons are not allowed to walk in on her while she's dressing, and her daughter can't take a bath with dad. Many moms agree with Trish, though their age cutoffs tend to be higher. For instance, at around 8, Shannon T.'s son thought it was "gross" to see his mom naked, so her family found an organic way to draw that line.

2. Can It Make Kids Inappropriately Sexual?

Milka K. worries that exposure to adult nudity at a young age might cause kids to become sexually curious before they're ready. As she puts it, "it may trigger them to explore, and that may be the beginning of early sexuality."

While several moms share Milka's concern, Jenny G. points out that "not everyone looks at a body and think 'sex.'" And Misty M. believes that the exact opposite is true: that focusing too much on modesty makes sex taboo and can lead to a fixation on it. As she puts it, "some of the most modest people I know are the most promiscuous. I guess because sex was also a naughty thing in their households. Sex was not a taboo subject in our house growing up, [so] nudity's not a big deal."

3. Is Making a Big Deal the Real Cause of Harm?

To some, family nudity is simply "natural." Cathy S. believes that making a big deal in either direction is what's really damaging. As Alixa H. expresses it, kids learn to feel ashamed of their bodies and of their sexuality when parents always hide their own bodies, especially when it would be normal for them not to, such as when changing: "It is all [about] how we feel [about] it and present it to our kids, and what we have in our hearts to teach them about the world."

When did you (or will you) start avoiding being naked around your kids?