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Nudity in Children

Nudity.

There. I've said the word. The naked truth (pun intended) is that some of us are more comfortable with seeing de-clothed bodies than others. Isn't that, after all, at the crux of nearly every debate about breastfeeding in public?

But the birthday suit body isn't just a breastfeeding question. Just look at this story out of Florida last week: Parents are irate over a statue parked at a shopping center near an elementary school, reports the Sun-Sentinel. The reason? It depicts an unclothed, anatomically correct family.

"It's the parents who have been talking about it," summer school teacher Terri Pavals told the newspaper. "The children don't really make an issue of it."

Nudity and children came up earlier this month, as well, in a New York Times story about parents who let their children roam around naked. Some parents have no problem letting their young children choose when to wear clothes -- and when not to. Some grandparents say it just isn't right. Then, of course, there's the role reversal -- the psychologist grandfather who allowed skinny dipping, chided by the kids' father who thought it inappropriate for their 10-year-old son to go skinny dipping with his younger siblings.

For some, letting a 2- or 3-year-old run around naked this time of year is standard practice for potty training. And I've yet to go to a park without a bathroom that doesn't have an official "pee tree" or "pee area" for little potty training ones to strip down and use.

The question, is, though, when does modesty take over? When do you stop your child from running into your bathroom to talk to you while you're in the shower? When do you tell them that they need to wear clothes around other kids, even their siblings. And are the rules different for girls than boys?

In our house, I've used the practical approach. When the kids started asking for privacy when getting dressed, they were ready to understand that they don't share their private parts with others. And slowly, very slowly, they're learning to knock before entering. And overall, we call body parts by their real names and don't make a huge deal about nudity in general.

What approach to nudity do you take with your children?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 28, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Previous: Altogether, Now. Breastfeeding in Public Is Legal | Next: Blog-Ola aka ... Blogging For Profit

Comments


My daughter enjoys being naked sometimes. I draw the lines at going out doors and when we have company. But every once and a while, she just loves to be naked.

She is five now and I try to teach her there is a time to be naked and a time to have clothes on. She has picked up on the rules pretty easily. She never asks to be naked at school or day care.

It was kind of funny. Last year she arrived at the thanksgiving dinner table in the nude. Of course everyone laughed and I told her she had to put on her dress.

I think we make a bigger deal out of it then the kids. I think most kids will find a need for their own privacy on their own.

Posted by: foamgnome | July 28, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

At 4, my SD doesn't yet see any need for privacy but will respect a closed bathroom door - more or less. After she pops her head in to tell you whatever can't seem to wait, she will close the door again.

My SS, at 7, wants privacy in the bathroom and gets really upset if you don't leave the bathroom immediately even if you are in the middle of using the bathroom yourself but doesn't care about running around the house in his birthday suit. He doesn't respect any privacy that you might want in the bathroom.

My husband doesn't want to be seen naked by the children. I don't particularly care and don't say anything if the kids walk into the bedroom while I am changing or (my favourite!) decide that they have to come into the bathroom and interrupt my shower to do something for them.

My parents were pretty laissez faire about the whole nudity thing while I was growing up so I guess that their attitude is reflected in my attitude about nudity.

Posted by: Billie_R | July 28, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

"I've yet to go to a park without a bathroom that doesn't have an official "pee tree" or "pee area" for little potty training ones to strip down and use."

Really? I've never heard of such a thing -- what's wrong with bringing a portable potty or waiting until you get home? If kids really are allowed to pee on trees in DC parks, I'm kind of glad I don't live there. That's just plain gross. And I say that as a parent who spent last summer potty training.

Posted by: newsahm | July 28, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

My son has hit the "want to be naked all the time" phase -- I will drop them off at my mom's to swim, and when I come back, he's running around butt-naked.

But I will no longer be naked around them, not after this conversation with my son as I was getting dressed a few months ago:

DS: "what that?" [pointing]
Me: "that is my breast"
DS: "will I have that?"
Me: "no. Girls get breasts, boys don't"
DS: [thinking] "I like that"

Posted by: laura33 | July 28, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Laura33,

I had to laugh at your story and reminded me of this incident that occurred while I was drying off after a shower:

her: Why are your tetas(breasts) moving?
me: ummm... because that is what they do? (I had absolutely no idea what to say)
Her as she runs out of the bathroom: Papa! Brother! Papa! Brother! Look at her tetas. They are moving.

Ummm thanks for bringing that to the attention of the ENTIRE household. Luckily, the males of the household couldn't have cared less and didn't budge from their spot on the sofa.

This morning, I got a question about the scar I have from my surgery at Christmas.

Posted by: Billie_R | July 28, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Let's see. My wife is a nurse, I'm blind. The 2 of us plus 2 daughters and 2 sons sleep in the 3 upstairs bedrooms and we all share the same bathroom. Hmmm. OK, we *try* to practice modesty, but amung our family members, there's just not much incentive to do so. Any kid can go naked in front of me, I'll never know, though every now and then, I hear Ms Whacky making a game of it and running after a kid to give their bare butt a swat. Hahaha! I've gotten a few myself.

The 2 middle ones, sister and brother used to take a bath together. Around the ages of 6 and 8, I heard way too much laughing and giggling one evening. Though I never asked them what was going on, I simply put an end to the routine.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | July 28, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I have always let the girls set those limits, really. They have never tried to leave the house naked or strip at the park. I don't insist they be clothed around each other but by age 6 or 7 they have all seemed to want to be. I do expect them to knock before they open any closed door and I do the same for them. It doesn't particularly bother me when they are in and out of my room while I am getting dressed or showering. They all seem to stop wanting to do that eventually as well. Overall, I guess I am pretty laid back about it.

Posted by: thosewilsongirls | July 28, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I've been having the opposite problem really. Having just spent a long weekend with a dear friend and her two daughters, it drove us adults nuts that our four girls - ages 11, 12, 12, 14 -- each had to change into their swimsuits in the bathroom one at a time. We're all girls! There's no reason you can't change together rather than tying up the bathroom and delaying the trip to the beach! I suppose it's their age.

Posted by: annenh | July 28, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I spare no modesty being naked around my almost 6 year old daughter. While at home, I walk around in just my panties and get fully undressed around her if she's in my bedroom. My daughter is the same way. She doesn't ask for any privacy. Nakedness is no big deal for us but then again, we are both females. I guess it would be different if I had a son.

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 28, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

My 5 yr old girls LOVE being naked! It is such a weird thing for me since I remember HATING it when my mom would have me swim in my grandmother's pool with just an old pair of my brother's swim trunks!!!! But anyway, my girls will gladly strip down to nothing ANYWHERE they are in order to put on a bathing suit or change into their dress up clothes. I am OK with that as long as it is only young kids around. Now that some of their friends have older brothers, we try to be a little more modest when they are around. Before bedtime and/or bathtime I will let the girls run around in their "undies" for a while. They know not to strip down completely until RIGHT BEFORE getting in the tub. I just think that is unsanitary!

As far as adult nudity, the girls have finally learned to knock before coming in the bathroom while I am showering. Yet not a day goes by when one of them doesn't ask, "will I have boobies when I'm big like you?" LOL

Posted by: LBH219 | July 28, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

A PEE TREE ????? That is disgusting. I've never been to a park that there is a de facto pee tree. Take a portable potty with you or plan your outing times better.

Truthfully, I don't mind nudity in children under 5 (school aged), but I do not want to see your child urinating or defecating in public.

Posted by: peonymom | July 28, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

The idea of naked people running around anywhere is just too pervy to think about. Some parents even bathe or shower with their children. Yuck. And a pee tree? Isn't the health department concerned about that? I certainly won't be strolling around that park if I can help it. No wonder you people are raising f****** up kids.

AHA!!! I knew WhackyWeasel was that blind perv Father of 4 and DandyLion. He always has to include some reference to nudity or bare boobs in his posts.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | July 28, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

A portable potty? Is that like, a regular potty you buy for the house but you just take it with you on the go? I just had my daughter use the regular bathroom while she was potty training. Lined it up with toilet paper or seat covers.

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 28, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

And yeah. A pee tree sounds really strange. Isn't urine harmful to plants? Anyways the idea of a "pee tree" sounds gross.

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 28, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

my 4 year old is not a big fan of running around unclothed, but she has always enjoyed jumping in the shower with her dad....although we make sure they both wear underwear in the shower so there are no embarassing questions. we'll probably stop doing this in a year or so.

the real interesting questions arise when we go to the women's locker room at the gym where my daughter takes swimming lessons. people have NO shame there, and are walking around with everything hanging out. i'm not at all a prude, but 90% of the people in that locker room should NOT be walking around naked. even my daughter recognizes this, and asks to use the private changing area when she gets in and out of her bathing suit!

Posted by: spd279 | July 28, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The neighborhood playground is behind my house, and I can attest firsthand that not only is there one Pee Tree, they are ALL pee (and poop) trees. In the summer after naptime, the place is a cesspool. Top it off with the giant sandbox, which neighborhood cats seem to enjoy more than the children. I guess I didn't realize when I bought this house that it would come with a nice public toilet out back.

Posted by: fourthpetunia | July 28, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

spd279 - what do you mean by "90% of the people in that locker room should NOT be walking around naked"?

First thing that comes to my mind is you think they don't have the proper figure/are too fat to do so, but if you mean something other than what I'm inferring let me know.

As annenh said, we're all girls/women, we've seen if before! If a younger girl isn't comfortable with it yet, okay. I was like that too, but kicked the hatred of it after living with my first roommate in college for a few months. By the time someone - either man or woman - hits adulthood I'd hope they'd seen themselves naked enough not to be shocked at another person's naked figure in a gym locker room. Of all places, this is one where an adult should expect to run into naked people.

Posted by: dajack02 | July 28, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

My girls are 8 and 5 (6 this Fri so she keeps reminding me) and #3 (sex unknown) is due in Sept. My oldest is starting to be extremely modest b/c she has little breast buds. It's driving my husband insane (he is so not ready for her to be developing already and actually, I'm not entirely ready either). Anyway, 5 yo scampers around naked as a jaybrid while the other has on panties and a tank top until it's time to literally step into the shower. I've realized that the behavior of the oldest one is making me more lax in my covering up -- to try to get her to be more comfortable w/her body and its potential changes. Opens up conversation; I don't want her to be surprised at anything. My husband, though, refuses to be seen naked by them and I agree that at their ages it's inappropriate. He came out the shower one day not knowing the youngest was in our bedroom: "daddy, I saw your vagina thing!" Oh, the horror on his face!! Interestingly, I'm sure we've told them the difference in boys and girls but I guess we don't have a need to refer to the word penis w/them so she called it what she could think of.

um, nsahm, I live in DC as well and I've never heard of a pee tree! LOL Stacey, not sure what park(s) you're frequenting, but please let me know so I can stay away from it and its "alternate bathroom."

& baltimore11...didn't think it possible, but you're even more ignorant in your comment today than yesterday. Wow. Are you working toward a record?

Posted by: 1moreandthen | July 28, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"A portable potty? Is that like, a regular potty you buy for the house but you just take it with you on the go? I just had my daughter use the regular bathroom while she was potty training. Lined it up with toilet paper or seat covers."

Well, yes. If there's a public restroom available, of course you use that. But Stacey mentioned parks that don't have bathrooms. When I was potty training, we either stayed away from parks w/o bathrooms or carried a small portable potty (yes, like the one at home, though they do sell tiny ones meant for the car) for emergencies. I never did have to use it, but I'd rather do that then use a "pee tree" [shudder].

Posted by: newsahm | July 28, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Baltimore11, would you happen to be childless by choice? This would explain things...

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | July 28, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

fr annenh:

>...it drove us adults nuts that our four girls - ages 11, 12, 12, 14 -- each had to change into their swimsuits in the bathroom one at a time. We're all girls! There's no reason you can't change together rather than tying up the bathroom and delaying the trip to the beach! I suppose it's their age.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the girls wanting privacy to change clothes. They are realizing their bodies are changing, and they deserve to be able to change in PRIVATE. I remember in junior high being horribly embarassed about having to change in the girls locker room for PE.

Posted by: Alex511 | July 28, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Newsahm, not to gross you out about the idea of a peetree, but if you have neighbors that walk their dogs around your neighborhood, you can bet that every fire hydrant, street sign, telephone pole and bush that grows within 6 feet of the sidewalk on your block also serves as a peetree, not to mention that if you look hard enough you'll notice some dog logs laying around.

Just think of it as natural fertilizer and you'll do OK. :)

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | July 28, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I'll stick my neck out here, and give all the Mrs. Grundy's, trolls and haters what they most want - a target.

We're a nudity-positive family. Sometimes we attend clothing-optional events and group camping trips (i.e. Pagan festivals). Older son got very modest around 12 or 13, and now always wears swim trunks to the pool and always wears clothes around the camp. Younger son loved to be naked at the pools, but generally preferred to have clothes on the rest of the time, because the rule is that you have to use sunscreen on everything not covered by clothing. Now he's 12, and he's getting modest just like his big brother did at puberty.

At home, we have private and public areas of the house. Nudity is acceptable in the private areas, bathroom, bedrooms and the hallway connecting them. It's not okay in the kitchen, livingroom, or outdoors. Although we'll usually ignore it in the mornings if someone is just going to the laundry room (sun porch behind the kitchen) to get some clean clothes.

The boys know what DH and I look like without clothes - it's been a complete non-issue and nothing has changed that since they were infants. They also enjoy looking at attractive young women at those clothing-optional events I mentioned above. DH has explained that it's rude to *stare* at girls because it sometimes makes them uncomfortable, or embarrassed, or even frightened when boys/men they don't know leer. Both have mastered the subtle-glance-and-look-elsewhere rule. And that was a *really* important one for older son - autism and socially appropriate behavior are a challenging mix.

Now, I'm out of here and won't be back today for any abuse. Amuse yourselves to your heart's content with my blessings.

Posted by: SueMc | July 28, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Sue,

No abuse here. If you (and your family) are more comfortable naked, what business is it of mine? As long as your kids aren't peeing in the park, it's all good.

Posted by: newsahm | July 28, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Totally agree with newsahm. My only observation about Sue's post is that it sounds like she is sticking more than her neck out. (Gentle teasing - not abuse!) Oh, and the tree-as-public-restroom is offensive all the way around. Icky public health issue, plus sets an unbelievably poor example for kids of what is acceptable behavior in public.

Posted by: CharmCityMom | July 28, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Duh - Baltimore11 - the topic is NUDITY so why is it a surprise that wackyweasel commented on it?

Posted by: jackdmom | July 28, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Re: Pee tree. When my son was about 3 we were temporarily locked out of the house while I hunted for a spare house key. He couldn't hold it and wet his pants and was very upset. I told him that in special circumstances (like being locked out), it would be acceptable to stand behind a tree where no one could see him and pee. Make sure to aim for the base of the tree and not the grass.
I'd much rather have a slightly damp tree with a little extra nitrogen, than wet pants, socks, shoes and sad little boy.

Posted by: MadisonMama | July 28, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with the girls wanting privacy to change clothes. They are realizing their bodies are changing, and they deserve to be able to change in PRIVATE. I remember in junior high being horribly embarassed about having to change in the girls locker room for PE."

We belong to the local YMCA; the kids all took swimming lessons there. A few years back, the water pipes in the women's locker room corroded and burst in the ceiling. Fixing the problem would take a couple of weeks of work crews being in the locker room 8 hours per day. Quick surveys of contractors revealed that essentially all workers were men; there were no all-female crews available.

The Y's solution: switch locker rooms for a month. Women were given the men's locker room; men were assigned the women's locker room and the male plumbers, carpenters etc. just worked among the men changing, showering (on days when there was water pressure for showers), etc.

DW and the DDs were horrified, because they were used to the women's locker room's individual shower stalls with curtains. They couldn't believe that they were expected to shower like the men - in a single, huge, open room with shower heads sticking out of the wall every 3 feet.

Some women didn't take showers after exercising during that month. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | July 28, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

I think there are real advantages to seeing others of your gender in the nude. You start to realize there's a real diversity in bodies and that it all is perfectly normal. Seems like the only people we see nude (or almost nude) are people like Britney Spears in music videos and magazines. I think it helps young women to see a broader range of bodies (and of different ages) than those who are airbrushed to perfection. So while I tolerate my children's modesty now, I hope it's not coming from a feeling of shame about their bodies because of the media images. That worries me.

Posted by: annenh | July 28, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

I guess it says something about me that when I became a parent I was totally fine with public breastfeeding and was appalled by how many kids peed on the ground at the playground. I'm sure other people are just the opposite.

We're still naked around the house through the preschool years and giving the straight answers when asked about body parts/functions. We're trying to balance giving good education about appropriate modesty and privacy while not projecting too much of our own shame and hangups. (yes, we all remember the fun of the locker rooms in junior high)

Posted by: KS100H | July 28, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

So glad my kids are too old for the playground. You just don't see older kids peeing on the sidelines at games. Or maybe those who live in areas with potty parks also have potty playing fields.

Posted by: CharmCityMom | July 28, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

the real interesting questions arise when we go to the women's locker room at the gym where my daughter takes swimming lessons. people have NO shame there, and are walking around with everything hanging out. i'm not at all a prude, but 90% of the people in that locker room should NOT be walking around naked. even my daughter recognizes this, and asks to use the private changing area when she gets in and out of her bathing suit!

Posted by: spd279 | July 28, 2009 10:41 AM
-------------------------------------------
--Oh good God. What do you expect when you go inside of a locker room? Of course there will be butt naked females of all shapes and sizes walking around and that's perfectly fine and acceptable. And yes, you are being prude.

Posted by: Soguns1 | July 28, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Girl's bodies are changing in as they approach middle school, please give them their privacy.

I am king of freaked out by Sue's family nudity, but what skin is it off my nose?

The pee tree thing is gross, I guess out here in the burbs there is more than one tree so we just call it "going in the woods".

Peeing outside is a necessity in certain circumstances, just don't let little boys think they can whip it out all the time.

We have seen families let their little boys pee directly into the ocean, and I draw the line there. What next, taking a poo on the beach and burying it?

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 28, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

My children are 10, 6 and 3. We have a simple guideline where nudity is concerned. When you are in the public areas of the house, you should be clothed. When upstairs in the privacy of their rooms, if my kids want to go starkers, that's their business.

When your children begin to develop modesty, they will let you know. If you are listening, you will hear them, and respond accordingly. When my 10 year old begins to feel uncomfortable with her brothers seeing her naked, as I expect will happen within the next year or two, she will say something. It may not be a direct remark, but she will make her feelings known. Until that time, barring hygiene issues, any discomfort you feel with young children's nudity is your issue, not theirs.

I visited this topic recently on my blog: http://njhausfrau.blogspot.com/2009/06/on-nudity.html

Posted by: PamelaGoldsteen | July 28, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

There's nothing wrong with being a prude. Apparently you people think there's nothing wrong with being a clueless exhibitionist. Whatever floats your boat.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | July 29, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm surprised there hasn't been a fight over whether the male figures in the statue have been circumcized.

Posted by: di89 | July 29, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

great to see all the productive posts! We're (maryland area naturist association) a local nudist-naturist group with newborns- 80's swimming together. Newbies and experienced nudists alike. marnaswimsinmd@yahoo.com

Posted by: marnaswimsinmd | August 1, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

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