As many people come to discover, sex and nudity are not the same thing. Many families are foregoing social taboos, and practice healthy and relaxed nudity in the privacy of their homes—feeling it promotes a wholesome understanding of the human body as it is, not as it is sexualized in the media. This article is not designed to coerce you into baring it all, but rather to help you learn how to comfortably practice nudity in your family, and decide if it's right for you.
Explore family nudity without feeling it's abnormal. Young children have not yet acquired a sophisticated understanding of modesty, and really don't care who sees them naked.
- This is the time when the parent can teach children not to be self-conscious of their bodies or of their nakedness. This, in turn, will help children associate nakedness to routine activity instead of exclusively sexual activity. As a result, the more prurient forms of nakedness lose their "forbidden fruit" appeal.
Keep nudity natural. Allow your children—from birth—to see you in ordinary nude situations, as you feel comfortable. Dressing and bathing are everyday activities where nudity is either part of the process (dressing) or required (bathing).
- Toilet activities, while natural, are not something everybody is comfortable with sharing. Be true to your own personal restrictions—don't ever feel like you have to do something you're not comfortable doing.
- On the flip side, nude cooking is not recommended for anybody, regardless of comfort level! There are places where hot oil simply doesn't belong.
- By being comfortable with your own body you will naturally convey the message to your children that nudity really is okay and not something to fear or be grossed out about. There are naturally times in life when clothes must be worn for protection, for comfort, and to adhere to societal norms. However, by talking with your children about being comfortable with nudity at home, your children will grow up understanding that being nude and being seen nude at home isn't something "uncool, horrible, and utterly embarrassing."
Start early. Encourage family nudity right from birth. You'd be surprised how quickly potty training takes root when your toddler is allowed to go bare at home.
- Be prepared for occasional "accidents," and handle these situations calmly without anger.
Celebrate the differences. As children begin to recognize differences between themselves, you, and your partner, explain to them the reason for these differences.
- Suggested explanations are: "Mommy's breasts are for giving milk to babies like when you were small."
- Another subject that may crop up is pubic hair: "Mommy and Daddy have hair down here because our bodies are warmer, and it helps keep our bodies cooler."
- If the subject of sexual organs comes up (and it will), simply be honest and straightforward. "Mommy has a vagina, and daddy has a penis." Avoid using either silly or vulgar terms—they will be the words your children use when the subject comes up at school. And it will come up.
Avoid sexual expressiveness. Like bathroom time, sexuality is perfectly natural and normal. However, sexual displays are not for children of any age. It will likely confuse them at best, and traumatize them at worst.
- Young adolescents naturally develop increased modesty around the time of puberty. Don't force someone to be nude. Wearing pants for a while may help the transition. Being around other teens who role model comfort with their bodies will be reassuring.
- There are many great books on pregnancy and adolescence that separate the sexual aspect from the physiological changes of puberty. These books provide a very neutral clinical look at breast and pubic hair growth during the teen years, and include very candid photos of actual births. Influences like these help separate nudity from sex in the child's mind, and provide a framework where family nudity can flourish to the benefit of all.
- Respect others' standards. It is good to point out that other people are not accustomed to nudity, and it's kind to respect their wishes. This may mean keeping the curtains drawn, or willingly closing the bathroom door when guests are present, for example—a practice that encourages courtesy, but not shame.
- A focal point for nudity that enables the whole family to participate together without artifice is very helpful. An indoor swimming pool or outdoor pool with a privacy fence is great, if not practical for most families. Saunas are also excellent for this, but are not as common in the U.S. as Europe. A practical alternative that works year round is a hot tub. Children see this as a heated kiddie swimming pool, and they can play with water toys, too.
- A great side benefit to wholesome understandings of the naked body in the home is that when the time comes to explain human reproduction, there will be less tension from the children—and less to be uncomfortable about for you. Children will not have the distraction of embarrassment when discussing (what for others can be) "shameful" body parts. This in turn, will keep the communication lines open during adolescence.
- Realize that not all shame is bad shame. Good shame is ingrained to help us avoid compromising situations. But other shame is the result of social conditioning during childhood, and unnecessarily predisposes us to clothes compulsiveness.
- The goal is to provide children the opportunity to see nakedness in a way that is almost non-existent in our society: to make it a neutral, non-sensuous part of everyday life in its proper context. This goes a long way toward inoculating them from the enticements so easily found outside the walls of your home and in the marketplace.
- Do encourage family members to appreciate nudity in fine art—especially considering that classical art is not bound by the hyper-sexualized and improbably body images so prevalent in today's ad-soaked culture.
- For families where the children are older it may be difficult or unwise to try to change attitudes. In some cases big decisions may need to be made in order to break free from habits. Such changes may include ridding the home of magazines, television, or other media that subtly (or not so subtly) links nudity to sex.
- Be careful about with whom you share your family practices. Not all people will easily come to the conclusions you intended. Nudity and sex are still tightly linked in our society.
- Exercise proper hygiene. When exercising family nudity, always encourage or require the use of a towel for sitting. As any parent can tell you, young children don't always exercise the very best cleaning methods after using the potty. Don't be embarrassed about teaching good, healthy personal toileting hygiene to your children. They look to you to teach them properly and correctly.
- Avoid exposing children to pornography. The best example is you, your spouse, and older siblings or relatives who bring a very real element to human nakedness.
- Although this should be obvious to any well-meaning parent, care is advised during moments of intimacy and marital relations. Since the genitalia are a major source of pleasure during these times, be careful to instead emphasize the primary functions (birth canal, urination) of genitals to younger children. Anything beyond that may overpower their emotional stage of development and work against the wholesome environment you are trying to maintain. Marital intimacy is best left behind closed doors.