I recently received an email from a stay-at-home dad who was concerned about showering in front of his 3-year-old daughter. He wondered, When should you stop letting your kids see you naked? He never felt concerned in the past, but suddenly his daughter had tons of questions about his penis… and he was worried that perhaps she was becoming too focused on his anatomy. This dad isn’t alone in his new-found discomfort with showering in front of his daughter. In fact, I hear this question a lot from parents.
I haven’t had an unsupervised shower since late 2006 and I almost find it eerily silent when I don’t have to answer a single question during a shower. At ages 7 and 9, my kids no longer have their noses pressed up against the glass when I shower and if they do pop in for a second it’s usually by accident. Although I don’t worry if they pop in for a second, I have noticed that they both usually say, “Sorry, Mommy, I thought you were out,” before heading back out.” They’ve come to their own conclusions about the importance of privacy when showering, and that’s fine with me.
The truth is that there isn’t a magic age when you should stop showering or changing in front of your child. All families are different and have their own comfort levels when it comes to nudity in front of children. Kids, however, do tend to want privacy at some point and might actually shy away from seeing their parents naked as they become more aware of their own bodies. If you’re still struggling with this question, consider these guidelines as a way to help you decide what you and your children are most comfortable with in your own home.
1. Watch for cues. By about age 6, most kids understand the concept of privacy and might seek more modesty in the home. You might find that your child no longer wants to bathe with a sibling, shuts the door tight when in the bathroom, and even closes herself into her room to get dressed in the morning. Your child’s demands for privacy actually signal independence. It means your child is growing and developing and seeking some space. That’s a good thing. It’s best to respect these boundaries to show your child that you understand the importance of having some privacy when bathing, going to the bathroom, and getting dressed.
2. Talk about personal boundaries. While some kids do begin to establish privacy zones around age 6, many children don’t. Some children genuinely enjoy bathing with siblings and don’t feel the need for privacy when bathing. They also might seem fairly oblivious to your nudity when they see you in the shower or getting dressed. Talk about personal boundaries as a family. We all have our own comfort zones when it comes to modesty, and it’s important to respect one another’s boundaries. Talk about things like knocking first and asking if it’s okay to enter a room before barging in. This rule was established in our home by my daughter, who prefers some time alone when she gets dressed for school. Open and honest communication about personal boundaries helps your children understand the concept of respecting privacy. It also teaches them to set their own boundaries.
3. Consider your own needs. If you’re the kind of person who likes to cover up, you don’t have to try to pretend you genuinely enjoy living as a nudist for the sake of your kids. In fact, when parents have different levels of modesty it actually shows kids that we’re all different. If you’re starting to feel awkward about being naked in front of your child as she gets older, or you just genuinely need more privacy in your life, go for it. It’s better to explain your needs to your kids than to try to run and hide, as this sends a confusing message. You don’t want your kids to feel like nudity is shameful or wrong. Say something like, “Mommy needs some privacy in the shower right now. Let’s find something fun for you to do while I take my shower alone.”
4. Comfort is key. While there isn’t much science to point us in the “right” direction on this one, the bottom line is that comfort is key. A good rule of thumb to stick to is that parents should follow the child’s lead. When your child asks for privacy when changing and going to the bathroom, she’s sending the message that she understands the need for personal space. That’s a good cue for parents to stop walking around naked or showering in front of their kids. If your child remains unconcerned; don’t force the issue.
For comfort to take center stage, however, it’s important to take the comfort level of all family members into account. That means paying close attention to how the kids and mom and dad feel when changing and bathing.
While I don’t mind a visit from either of my kids while I’m in the shower, my husband tends to shut the door when it’s his turn. It was never a big deal and the kids hardly even noticed the change, but they do respect the closed bedroom door and will wait patiently for it to reopen instead of barging in. Sometimes the natural progression that occurs within families is the best guide for what to do at what age… we just have to stop worrying so much and let it happen.
More Advice from Katie Hurley:
- Why You Can (& Should) Set Limits with Your Kids
- 4 Secrets to Letting Your Kid Be Who They Are (Instead of Who You Want Them to Be)
- Anxious? How to Stop Worrying So Much (& Keep Your Kids from Being Worriers, Too)