How does your family handle non-sexual nudity?

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Towels: do you need one? Photo by Kevin Steinhardt, used under Creative Commons license.
I’ve been wondering how other families feel about nudity at home. My husband and I are in the practice of walking around the house in various states of undress, and it’s never been a big deal.

However, our child is now a year old and we’ve been wondering when we’re “supposed” to cover up… or if we even need to. I’d love to hear how other folks have handled this: what did you say to your kids about nudity? — Doxie

How have you explained non-sexual nudity to your child? Does your kid ever see you naked?

Comments on How does your family handle non-sexual nudity?

  1. My first reaction is to say that you don’t need to change anything. It sounds comfortable, and a great way to teach not being ashamed of your body. Another option though is to have “clothing optional” zones, like bedrooms.

  2. My parents used to wander from bathroom to bedroom au naturel. It was normal for me, so I was never bashful about it. The only downside was that when I was very little and asked to ‘draw a picture of mummy & daddy’, I always… Ahem… Added pubic hair! It’s not like they were naturists- literally it was a ‘getting dressed after the bath’ scenario! Now we have our own 11 month old Chap, I see no reason why we need to cover up. As you say, the nakedness is non-sexual, and I’m happy to let it all hang out. I just hope he doesn’t take after me when it comes to the art!

    • My parent did the same thing and I do the same, but like with Bet there was a small downside. When I started perschool I did not understand why everyone had such a problem when I would take off all my cloths in order to change in to the dress-up clothing. To me it was just body parts no big deal.

      • Yep, that was me, too, I didn’t get why the other kids were so shy in change rooms after swimming or whatnot, I’d just get my kit off! Nudity was never even a “thing” in our house, it was just that we weren’t the kind of family that shut doors, pretty much ever.

      • I drew naked family portraits too! Other possible risk: as parents, you might not notice when your kids are naked if nudity is such a regular thing. My mom once took a roll of pics of my brother and me climbing trees, and didn’t realize until she picked them up from the camera store that we were naked! My father also once drove my brother all the way to a local fair before he noticed my brother wasn’t wearing pants… he had bucked my brother in and everything. Certainly didn’t scar us in any way, but I think my husband and I will generally cover up around our baby!

    • Same here, my parents were nude a lot. And while it was never an issue to us, we totally drew them nude as well. And when friends came over my mom didn’t always put clothes on so ALL of my friends saw my mom in some state of nudity and that was super embarrassing!

      Now, my own teenage boys see me nude all the damn time (in/after the shower, getting ready, breastfeeding the baby) but keep their own privacy in their rooms or the bathroom. It’s a non-issue and they know what a real woman’s body looks like.

  3. I was just thinking about this last night!

    Our daughter is 3. We answered all of her questions, and explained her body and the difference between her and a boy. We still wander around in our underwear and sometimes nude before a shower, or while getting dressed.

    I have a friend’s kid who told her(about a random classmate) “So&so’s Mom makes breakfast with no clothes on.”

    So I would say around school age we’ll have a few more conversations about privacy. hahah..

  4. It hasn’t been an issue for my 3yo. I think children will take your cues on what is appropriate. For example, I shower with my daughter almost daily, but we are never naked when guests come over. I’ve told her that she needs to wear clothes when we leave the house or guests come over and she’s never questioned it. She also sometimes showers with my husband. There was a phase that was awkward when she noticed his penis, but once we told her what it was she got over it and doesn’t say anything about it any more. From my perspective, no reason to cover up at home unless you or your partner are uncomfortable with it. The kiddos will accept the norm that you provide.

    • This was how my family operated when I was little. As I got older we transitioned into slightly more privacy, but part of that was due to my preference for it also. My mom and I have never really worried about being naked in front of one another (we can still walk in on each other getting dressed or in the bathroom now that I’m 30), but my dad and I transitioned to covering up a bit more. But it wasn’t strange for us to be around the house in our underwear or just a towel while getting ready when it was just the family. I agree, if you treat it as normal and set up boundaries and explain things appropriately as kids get old enough to question, there is no reason this has to be a problem.

      • My upbringing was similar. Although there *was* the awkward moment when Mom thought I had forgotten something after leaving for the bus stop, but it was actually the furnace repairman… >_>

  5. We are all naked, a lot of the time when the weather is ok. Keeping my kid in clothes is a challenge year round, but we do have a rule about wearing at least underwear in order to play out side. We still bathe with our kid and I sleep nude with my kid when we sleep in the same bed. Thats how it is in most of the world, Western Culture seems to be uptight about it, but I guess we are weirdos.

  6. Well, since we’re a blended family we’re a little more careful of what is “appropriate” to the outside world. My husband is modest concerning nudity around his almost 9 year old, but she’s still not concerned with nakedness of herself anywhere in the house. If we were a “traditional” family then I’d be less worried about nakedness, but when you have two parties that would like full custody, you have to think of everything. *sigh*

    • Yes, I’m in the same boat with my blended family. Stepson has never seen me undressed even when he was a toddler, and will never (assuming my door locks don’t break haha). My husband is also just generally on the modest side, but I think stepson has probably seen him goin to/from the shower in states of partial undress. We would like to add to the family one day also, so I’m curious about how we can balance teaching our children that nudity is natural and ok in the right setting without risking issues with my stepson/court/etc. I also wonder about explaining to our (hypothetical) children why it is ok for THEM to see me undressed in an appropriate setting as opposed to stepson. But perhaps the age difference will make that a non-issue. I expect, like most everything else about blended family life, that it will be a bit of compromise and balance.

      • I was in a 2.5yr relationship with a man that already had children, where nudity was concerned, I was a little uncomfortable, but luckily I had a great friendship with their mother so was able to approach her and she had no problem with it – in a shower/changing setting – because she did the same. With my own child who is now 2, I’m naked around her often, we usually shower together because she loves it. When she asks me to start covering up more, that’s when I’ll change how naked I am haha

    • That’s what I wanted to point out. As long as it’s your own kid, I don’t see any problem if both parties feel comfortable about nudity. But I grew up with a stepfather who started living in with my mom when I was 7, and I was extremely unconfortable having this man’s nudity forced on me, so to speak.

  7. When I was growing up, my parents were very private about their nudity. Not in a Puritanical “your body is a vessel of SIN!” way, but in a shy, “we prefer personal privacy” way. Consequently, as an adult it took me a while to become comfortable with non-sexual nudity around the house. Eventually, I got over it and now spend more time nekkid – usually while getting dressed or post-shower, but sometimes just for no good reason while chilling out. I see no reason to stop when our kids are born and start getting older. I think raising them with a little more of an open approach to being in the buff would be beneficial. When I started to enjoy walking around without clothes it made me feel more confident in my own body, which I feel is a good thing for everyone.

    • I prefer underwear myself but more out of comfort, I want to keep the girls up and they have started drooping the undies are also for furniture protection But that’s where it ends. We take our clothes off the second we walk in the house and I don’t expect that will change when the little monster arrives… We’ll see you have to do what makes you comfortable your little one will follow suit.

  8. This is something I struggled with myself a little.
    I grew up in a very conservative household. I do not ever remember seeing my parents naked or even in their underwear.
    But I don’t think that kind of “QUICK! COVER YOUR BODY BEFORE SOMEONE SEES IT! DRESS UNDER THE COVERS!” attitude is healthy… but it still made me uncomfortable to think about walking around naked in front of my child when she was anything but a little baby, simply because it was unfamiliar to me.

    As embarrassing as it is to admit it, I got over it by looking at the family in My Neighbour Totoro.
    There’s a scene where the girls bathe with their father. They aren’t covered by bubbles or swimsuits, they’re just having a bath and it’s a very sweet, platonic and not at all uncomfortable little scene.
    I felt like that was a much healthier way of being than like the household I grew up in.

    My daughter is now 2 and a half, and all three of us still bathe together. 🙂

  9. My daughter is 8yo and we have never felt the need to cover up and niether does she. In fact it is her preferred way of being – as soon as she comes into the house, off come the clothes. Even as the natural tendency to be modest turned up, she is modest around others, guests, her step brother (who is here part time) and other family members. But among me and her father, not a problem. We also have been very open about body parts and make sure we don’t call them silly names. Recently, I bought her a couple books on puberty and reproduction. I told her to read them and come to me if she had any questions. She did and with no embarrassment or shame. If you don’t want to cover up, don’t. Your child gets a sense of normal from you. If you think it is weird or feel uncomfortable, you child with pick up on that – even if you cover up.

  10. It’s basically whatever you’re comfortable with. My husband has never been more than shirtless in front of our daughter. I regularly get dressed, use the bathroom, and have plumbers crack in front of her.
    She’s 2, and potty training, so she’s allowed to be naked or bare bottomed at home, except if we have company who we know would be made uncomfortable. If she asks questions about my body I nonchalantly answer. I gently correct her if she tries to touch me somewhere she shouldn’t. If she touches herself, we tell her that it’s ok to do that in her room, but not in front of friends.
    I knew a girl who’s whole family walked around the house naked. It wasn’t a big deal, but when she went through puberty, her dad started just averting his eyes to avoid potentially making her uncomfortable.

  11. We have three kids, an eleven year-old, a two year-old and a one year-old. We have no issues being naked in front of the babies. We walked around naked in front ofbour eldest until she was old enough and aware enough to feel uncomfortable. She’s more aware of her body and our bodies- specifically my husband’s. So he no longer is naked around her. That started when she was about seven.

    • This idea of standards changing as kids get older kind of interests me. What I remember was that my parents were pretty comfortable being naked around me, and then suddenly that started to change when I was maybe nine or ten. This change in behaviour was never explained to me, and to be honest it was a little confusing!

      Did you just let this develop organically without talking about it, or did you ever bring it up with your oldest?

      • This type of behaviour stems from being unable to view nudity the way kids do, and in so doing, moderating one’s behaviour and then polluting their views of it as they become adults as well.

        When people aren’t born or raised nudist, there’s the inherent indoctrination by society and media throughout the entirety of our lives that force a deeply ingrained association between nudity and sex. But it’s not real, and not innate. Sure, one may choose to undress to have sex, but nudists see the naked body as they’ve always seen it, and the same way children see it: as a person.

        There is no issue with children going through puberty and being naked themselves or seeing parents naked. But when parents create an issue, that’s when things change and the adolescent learns that nudity carries sexual inferences.

        Even erections aren’t inherently sexual themselves, as there are a myriad causes for boys and men to get erect, and it starts from birth. So unless babies with erections are secretly enjoying breast feeding in ways we didn’t consider before, I think it’s another one of societies perversions that synonymise an erect penis with sexual desire or intent (this all stems from religion’s influence on our early moral values that we still haven’t course-corrected for).

  12. What a great topic, and one that is on my mind regularly. My girls are 7 and 11 and when it was just us in the house, I had no bashfulness about being naked. My boyfriend has been with us for 3 years now, and he sleeps naked, and just makes sure that he has PJ bottoms near the bed for when they come in our room in the morning. They know he sleeps naked, and they haven’t seen him naked, and it feels like a pretty comfortable situation, since we tend to have a pretty comfortable feeling about being naked in general–it’s natural! But… I tend to sleep with panties on, because I’ve felt a little weird about ME being naked in bed with my man when they come in. I don’t have any fully cognitive reasoning for this…. I guess I’m just wanting to make our nakedness in bed appear non-sexual, even though of course…. it is and it isn’t. I’ve been thinking lately that I should just be naked as well, since that’s what I do when my girls are with their Dad 2 nights/week… but I guess with my 11-year old, I’m feeling a bit shy about being too obvious that “Mommy and Chad are naked in bed together.” Silly? I’m not sure!

  13. There is no need to explain non-sexual nudity to children. The idea that something is sexual (or even the concept of sexuality) doesn’t even occur to them until they are approaching the teen years. What you do need to explain as they get older is the idea of appropriate and inappropriate situations for nudity. You will have to coach them through things as they come up and expect mistakes and embarrassment (mostly yours).

    My family skinny dipped together (in appropriate situations) until I was approaching puberty. However, my mother was mortified when we when to a friends house for a pool party and, when the mother announced it was time to get in the pool, I started to take off my swim suit.

    • I agree about explaining societal nudity taboos, but strongly disagree that sexuality doesn’t occur to children until puberty. As a culture we equate “sexualizing children” with either pedophilia or tweens in miniskirts, but the biological fact is that children are innately sexual beings. I can’t remember a time I didn’t feel arousal, although I wouldn’t have a name for it for years. Parents often observe children playing with their genitals more than other parts of their body from the minute they gain motor control. In addition many non-hetero, non-monogamous, transgendered, etc. people recall knowing from an early age that they felt “different” from what they were taught to be, long before their bodies developed sexually. Developing personal sexuality as a child is as valid and important as learning to share it with others as a teen and adult.

  14. My kids see me naked all the time, their Dad is more modest. I get asked where my penis is or why is there hair down there, but I explain things about our bodies to them and that’s it. I bathe with my kids, I stopped sleeping naked with my youngest because he liked to dig his feet into my buttcrack. Nudity is nothing to be ashamed of, we all have bodies and they are all beautiful.

    • Our daughter slept with us a lot as a toddler, and it was her feet in uncomfortable places that made me start sleeping with underwear on for the first time since I was a teenager. It was good to get back to nude sleeping when she started sleeping in her own bed more regularly and grew tall enough that her toes weren’t in my junk when she hopped in our bed.

  15. In the same vein of practically all of the above:
    My parents and I used to walk around naked in bed- and bathrooms, and I don’t remember my dad ever NOT doing that, no matter what age I was (or stage of puberty I hit), and I’ve never felt uncomfortable with that, nor have I ever felt inclined to cover up myself.
    My six years younger brother though at one point DID start to wrap a towel around him and stuff (when he was, like, 18 already I think?!) and the three of us never quite wrapped our heads around that, with him having the same upbringing as I…
    Finally, my first boyfriend, who came from a Muslim family but he himself practiced nor believed, was intrigued by how we did things at my home, and used to say that he wished he had been brought up a bit more relaxed on the nudity front, as it would have made him feel less preoccupied with, well, basically every clothed female in the world, wondering what they would look like underneath…

  16. My favorite thing about not living with a roommate was always being able to live in my undies or full on naked whenever I wanted.
    Now that we have a three-year-old, I am often topless. I prefer to wear undies because I’m not a big fan of sitting on the sofa with a naked butt.
    She sees me naked all the time and she gets the choice between a shower with me or a bath by herself on bathing days.
    As for my husband, he’s never been comfortable naked and is always full clothed unless in bed or in the shower.
    Like everyone else has said, when the questions come up about differences in your bodies, just explain them – honestly and simply.
    I don’t feel the need to cover up and I think so long as your kid doesn’t voice any concern about it, it’s no big deal.
    Now if my daughter looks at me and says, “Seriously Mom, I’m sick of seeing your saggy tits hangin out all the time,”
    I’ll promptly put a shirt on while in common areas – and admonish her use of the phrase saggy tits.

  17. My husband and I have raised my daughter (his step-daughter) with the idea that the human body is beautiful. We’ve been together since she was 2years old, and nudity was always a normal part of our home. As she matured, she is now 14, she felt the need to cover up and not run around naked all the time anymore, but that was her choice. We are less likely to be stark naked around her anymore, and it was never “all the time”. But she does see us in various states of undress and it’s normal and she’s fine with it.

  18. I am of the opinion that you do what you are comfortable with while trying to instill a sense of “appropriate outside of our house” essence. My son is 3 and I am sometimes half clothed around him when I have to rush to him in the night, or to his baby sister since they currently share a room, but I put an end to sharing baths with him and being nude during waking hours the first time he poked my lady bits unexpectedly. I just wasn’t comfortable with that kind of attention. He still sees my breasts fairly regularly since I breastfeed openly at home, but boobs are boobs. They are for feeding my child. We are currently tackling that hopefully the same for everyone problem of him whipping out his penis to show or play with by giving him places it is okay to explore his body (ie the bathroom or his bedroom, and NEVER outside of the house). Man I hope he never does THAT at preschool!

  19. I am following this post with interest because it is something I’ve been thinking about as well as I am expecting my first. I grew up in a naked family, as we have always jokingly called ourselves. I have seen parents and grandparents naked and it’s never been a huge deal, just bodies. My mom says the first time they even thought about it was when I was about 4 years old and walked up to my dad while he was shaving after a shower, naked, and grabbed his penis. He gently pulled my hand away and said that I couldn’t grab people’s private parts without asking. I apparently replied “When I’m a big girl I can play with them whenever I want!”
    My husband’s family is more modest than mine, but still comfortable walking around in a tee shirt and underwear in front of family. I think it will be interesting to see how it plays out for us as our kids grow up.

  20. This topic makes me think of the time our family visited my parents and my husband asked me to ask my dad to put on pants over the underwear he had on. Hahaha! “Covering up” was never an issue in my house growing up, but my husband never saw his parents naked that he remembers. He has worried on and off over the years about how old is too old for our daughter to see him naked. I honestly don’t know what to tell him since I remember distinctly seeing my dad naked up until the time I left the house after high school. I think my husband’s request for my dad to put on pants would sound totally legitimate to most people, but honestly I think he was being modest by even wearing underwear while walking from the hot tub to the bath.

    I don’t know the answer but I do agree that we really don’t have to explain anything about our state of nakedness to kids. I figure at some point, our 10 year old daughter will say something herself, or if it doesn’t bother her she will ignore it. We aren’t all that modest around the house-none of us feel any need to cover up if we need to get something from the laundry room before we get dressed after the shower, and honestly I think that allowing a child to see adult bodies in a non sexual manner is healthy.

  21. My son is almost two and we let him see us walk to the shower naked, mostly because he is at the age where knowing what is happening next (“Mommy’s taking a shower now!”) is important to him. I haven’t yet given much thought to when we should stop doing that but it doesn’t seem necessary yet… he pays very little attention to our body parts at this age.

  22. We have always been an au natural family. My son is now 9 and we still are.

    Some people ask when I will start covering up But I feel it is my house I can do as I wish.

    Granted I am not lounging nude….but walking from the shower to the dressing area, sleeping etc are nude times.

    I guess if my son ever asked me to cover up I probably would but he can care less at the current time.

    I think however that we have always been an open door kinda house has played into that….shower and potty times seem to be come talk to mom or dad time.
    On top of that we live in a loft so we really don’t have “privacy”

    I think it just is a case by case situation. I have friends that have kids who are horrified at the thought of their parents naked and others who can care less.

    Feel it out and go with your instincts.

  23. We are pretty relaxed as far as nudity goes. The only real rules are that you can’t go outside without all your clothes on or be naked in front of a window (our apartment faces the parking lot lol). But as far as nudity inside, we don’t even really think about it. The concept of privacy doesn’t really exist with our son lol. He’s seen us both naked, partially dressed, on the toilet, etc and he’s never said anything about it. We would let him run around naked if he was potty-trained, but as it is he spends most of his time in a tshirt and pullup.

  24. This is really interesting reading all the different stories!

    My family have never been bashful about nakedness. My mum still finds it hilarious that my naked dad would walk into my room (which my younger sister shared) and wake us up in the morning. No problem apart from our beds were at penis level! Haha!

    It still hasn’t bothered me. Having moved away from home I can still quite happily be naked or see my parents naked. Having an open relationship is important with body image.

    Having just spoken to my husband he would want to cover up as it’s too sexual to be naked. His family has a bit of a different approach. We’ll see how it goes when we finally do have children…

    • If he’s uncomfortable with the idea, you probably won’t sway him. But it’s not nessecarily a bad thing to have one parent who is lax about nudity and one who’s not. Thats how it is at our house. We just avoid undermining each other (I don’t say “Daddy’s such a prude for getting dressed in the bathroom” and he doesn’t say “Mummy’s such a perv for inserting tampons in front of you.”)

  25. My partner and I are generally relaxed about nudity around our son so far, but we have roommates, so we keep it to the bedroom and bathroom.

    My father has always slept naked, and one night when I was about seven, he had to run from his room to mine when my parents urgently remembered they were supposed to be playing Tooth Fairy. The next morning, I asked my mom, “Mom, why is the Tooth Fairy naked?”

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