Written by Doctor G

Family Nakedness

I live with my husband and my son who is almost 7 and my daughter who is 19 months.  I have a question about family nakedness.  My husband and I are very comfortable around the house in the morning without clothes on.  I want to make it clear that I’m not talking about sex, I’m just talking about being around our children.  Especially, our son – if that is OK.  I think it is, my husband thinks it is.  I just want to make sure that we are instilling in our children comfort with their bodies, but not anything crazy or creepy.  I just wanted to get your opinion.  Thank you.

Kelly, in Cleveland, OH

A:  This question sneaks up on a lot of families.  Parents worry that they will affect their child’s sexual development in one way or another.  We’re afraid to overexpose our kids, but also afraid that we could repress them.

First of all, it takes children until about age 4 to realize that Mom’s body is not actually a physical extension of their own body.  This can be older if breastfeeding went past age 2 (when long-term memory solidifies).  You can start to look for cues that your child wants more privacy from you after that.

Experts are polarized on this issue.  You will hear from nudists that fear for the society that insists on any clothes at all ever.  Even louder are those who feel that children should not look at their own naked bodies, let alone anyone else’s.

There is some research on this, most done in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The major studies show that nudity in the home correlates highly with children who grow to adulthood and report a higher level of comfort with their own bodies and their sexuality than do children who grew up in homes where modesty was stressed.  No study has found a correlation between nudity at home and incest or mental health issues in the offspring.

So the short answer is: nudity is not a problem.  Not until your child shows you it is time to put some clothes on.  How will you know?

Kids give signals that they are developmentally ready for more privacy.

When your son is not willing to change in front of others, respect that.  This happens about the same age that children develop self-consciousness about other things too.  The range is usually kindergarten through 3rd grade.  Often kids are still OK with being naked in front of parents or sibs for a while longer than friends or other relatives.

To protect a growing sense of modesty:

  1. When a door is closed, kids must knock and wait for an answer.  Parents can do this but don’t have to (you may have good reasons for opening a closed door without permission at times).
  2. No one can touch you if you say no, not even family members.  This teaches respect for self and others.
  3. Anyone in your family can ask for a certain level of modesty from the group.  This means if your son would rather not see you naked, you will honor that.

You are not damaging your son by modeling comfort with your bodies!  If you want to know if it is already making him uncomfortable, ask him.  Make it clear that there are no wrong answers, and open up the conversation.




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4 thoughts on “Family Nakedness”

  1. I’m back. Missed me??

    Dr. G,
    I believe i know a few parents (BOTH moms and dads) that seeing them nude might damage them…

    Kelley, what does your son say? Have you talked to him?

  2. Best blog ever! I was just thinking about this question the other day, and here you have given me a brilliant and concise answer.

  3. As a mom of only boys, I agree it is important to follow their clues and when you don’t know…ASK! I would say around 3rd grade seems to be the time that boys ask for increased privacy. It is important to honor this, but at the same time – let your kids know you are available for questions about their changing body.

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