Here's When It Stops Being Okay to Be Naked in Front of Your Kids


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Well, it finally happened. Yesterday my 10-year-old son walked in on me getting changed and, for the first time, made a quick pivot and walked right back out again. Granted, it was not my best angle: I was bent over. With my back to him. So ... I get that. But it was still a surprise, because until then, he had no problem being around me when I was naked. Something has changed at the age of 10, and it made wonder, is there a limit on how long it's appropriate for parents to be naked in front of their kids?

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I never thought about how I would handle being naked in front of my kids before I had children. All I had to go on were my experiences with my parents, which was that seeing my mom naked was something that happened only accidentally and seeing my father naked was something that never, ever happened.

I definitely assumed that by the age of 10 my kids would have made clear long ago that Mom + naked = nope. But until yesterday, the three of us were naked around each other all the time without the slightest hint of discomfort. It appears, based on the smoothness of his pivot and the ensuing conversation we had with him hiding behind my bedroom door, that that time has come to an end with my son.

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Was I right to wait until he let me know that he was no longer comfortable with it? For some parents, that's a decision that they make themselves, usually because of how they were raised or their personal comfort level. Other times, it's a little less planned. I asked moms on social media how long they feel it's appropriate to be naked in front of your kids, and the answers were all over the map. According to one mom I spoke with, the right age to stop being naked with your kid is: "When you are showering with them and they say, 'Mommy, you have big meatballs.' So, 5."

Fair enough.

But I decided to get an expert's opinion, so I talked with Anya Manes, a popular California-based parent educator and coach who offers workshops and private coaching for parents on how to talk with your children about sexuality and relationships. She has even written about this very topic in a blog post titled "Navigating Nudity."

According to Manes, parents who are unsure about how to handle nudity with their children are usually struggling with one main issue: what other people will think. "Parents know in their guts that nudity is non-sexual, so they can't quite put their finger on what's wrong about it," says Manes. "This is about how I'll be perceived by my community. This has nothing to do with whether I'm okay with this or whether my kids are okay with it, because if I wasn't okay with it I wouldn't do it, and if my kids weren't okay with it I would probably not do it."

If you decide, as I did, to let your children make the call about when to put the brakes on family nudity, the key is to have good communication with your kids. In some families, expressing an opinion that might be in conflict with their parents' does not feel like a safe option for children. If, like me, you plan on continuing to allow your kids to see you naked until they make it clear that they're no longer comfortable with it, then you'd better make sure that they feel okay telling you that. 

"If you truly have open communication where your kids can say 'Hey, I'm uncomfortable about something,' then you probably can just check in from time to time and trust that," says Manes. "If you don't have that kind of relationship ... they'll feel like they don't have the right to speak up."

Since my son has shown me that he is no longer comfortable seeing me naked but my daughter hasn't, I was also curious about whether or not the rules change depending on the sex of the parent and the child. In other words, is it more "appropriate" to see the same-sex parent naked than the opposite-sex parent? According to Manes, the answer is a decided no. "It has everything to do with how your community perceives it and nothing to do with you and your kids or your family structure. [Sex differences] are not important," she tells me.

For at least one parent who responded to me on social media, however, her child's sex did play a role in this decision. "My daughter was around 3 years old and in preschool," said one mother. "One of her preschool friends was a boy named Brian. My husband got out of the shower and Caitlyn said, 'Daddy! Your penis is just like Brian's!' Ouch."

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So, how long is it actually appropriate for parents to be naked in front of their children? The answer is that it's totally up to you and your kids. If you listen to your gut feeling and personal comfort level and are confident that your kids can be open and honest with you about these issues, then you shouldn't go wrong. But always remember that you know your kids best, and it might be up to you to set the limits. 

Says Manes: "You might say, 'Would you tell me if ...' and they'll be like, 'Oh yeah, sure,' but they just want to stop talking about it. They're giving you the answer you want to hear because they want to exit the conversation ... So I wouldn't necessarily trust that, I'd really trust your sense of them."

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