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Nudity: Inappropriate in Front of Kids?

QUESTION: My four-year-old son bathes with either me or his father. He is often in the same room with us while we are getting dressed. At what age might parental nudity be considered inappropriate?

ANSWER: Your naturally occurring nudity is not a problem -- as long as you, your husband and child are comfortable with it. In fact, it may easily convey an attitude that reduces shame and increases comfort in your son's perception of his own body. A healthy relationship to our bodies begins with liking ourselves and acquiring knowledge about how our bodies work. A natural acceptance, conveyed to our children, can promote their own positive self-image and contributes to self-esteem and the development of healthy adult sexuality.

The time for modesty evolves with the needs and comfort levels of all family members. Certainly, by puberty, and usually pre-puberty, a child's desire for privacy grows. They may even comment on being uncomfortable with nudity in the parent of the opposite sex.

Sometimes, parents begin to feel uncomfortable with nudity as their opposite sex child grows older. Individuals within families must be accommodated with respect to each other,s privacy needs as these feelings emerge. But certainly discussions about these issues are wonderful opportunities to develop your own beliefs and philosophy about nudity and how you decide to address it in your family.

Talk with your partner about the beliefs and attitudes prevalent in your childhood families around nudity. Explore how your respective parents handled this issue and the effects of this on your own development. Talk with other parents to explore their attitudes and beliefs. You might also read the information available at ParentsPlace.com about sex education for young children. Then, continue to develop your own approach to nudity in your family. You are already doing a great job, but your questions indicate that it is time to further develop a shared philosophy for child rearing with your partner.

From reading your letter, all family members appear comfortable with the nudity involved in bathing together and dressing. No inappropriate sexual boundaries are being crossed, and body education is evolving naturally.


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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