Why do toddlers want to be naked

Until when can a child see their parents naked?


Dear family councilor, It is very strange for me to write here, but somehow I have the feeling that I need an expert opinion. How should I say? My husband and I are not nudists, but we are not ashamed of being naked. At home we often run around completely naked. Especially in summer when it's hot. We are always naked in the back of the garden. Right from the start, we only put clothes on our children when it was necessary - that is, when it was cold or to protect them from the sun. We have two sons, one of whom has now turned ten, the smaller one just five. To be honest, we never thought of anything, and it's perfectly normal for the children, too. The other day I noticed in a circle among friends who also have children that they find it totally strange when parents show themselves naked in front of their children. I didn't even know what to say at first. Then a discussion started that children should also learn that a naked adult is not normal in order to protect themselves from assault. I didn't even tell them that there were four of us as a family in the bathtub ...

Since then I have felt really bad and am a little insecure. We are not strangers to one another. Or am I wrong and underestimate something here? My father and mother are still moving in front of me today (they are over 60), that is not even questioned. I ask for professional advice!

Answer from Linda Syllaba

I gather from your lines that the opinions of your friends speak of a concern that is in the direction of sexualization. What I also read is that you don't see a glimpse of that aspect in your family, and so I think it's perfectly okay to keep it that way.

"Children should learn that a naked adult is not normal in order to protect against assault": This is largely a question of the context! A naked adult in the subway station is definitely unusual, at home in the bathroom or in the garden while sunbathing he is not - especially not within his own nuclear family. At least not for you. Furthermore, sexual assault has not yet happened just because a naked person is present.

We are all born naked. Humans have started to wear clothes to protect themselves from the elements and injuries. As a result, fashion ideas were added that served status, aesthetics and moral aspects. In very prudish areas of the world it is still considered improper or even punishable to show yourself naked in public. In other countries it is not uncommon, for example, to go swimming "topless" or even naked. I don't even want to start with the internet ...

In any case, the view of nudity is heavily influenced by individual and socially relevant values, which in turn are heavily fed by culture, religion, family customs and so on. Young children don't think about their nudity until they eventually realize that adults do it differently. A feeling of shame only arises where I do not want to show something about myself, my personality or my body because it is subjected to an evaluation that is measured against the "norm". ("Normal" first of all only means that it corresponds to what I know, and also often to what the majority of the people around me do. It means Notthat something is good, right, healthy or smart.) The opposite pole of shame is pride. A healthy self-esteem makes it possible to find the balance somewhere between shame and pride, also with regard to your own body. The more naturally real physical conditions are dealt with, the healthier one's own approach to them will develop. (That means, for example, you don't need to emulate Barbie measurements or Superman figures yourself.)

Since you all show yourself dressed in everyday life outside the house, I dare to say that your sons also learn to clearly differentiate between what is appropriate and where in terms of nudity. With a healthy feeling for one's own limits, there should also be no uncertainty about what concerns third-party attacks, whether verbal, emotional or physical - your sons should know how to defend themselves. However, to teach them that, you don't need to give up your occasional nudity at home. Having a strong sense of self is helpful in setting boundaries. And of course that the children's boundaries are respected at all times. (Linda Syllaba, November 28, 2019)

Answer from Hans-Otto Thomashoff

This question is less about being naked or not being naked than about normality. Is it normal for everyone in your home to be naked? Fortunately, we live in a society that grants the individual a great deal of freedom, especially within their own four walls - including the garden. That means, if it is normal for you not to cover yourself permanently, then that is just normal. Children learn what parents set an example for them, and you have had the experience of your own parents that nudity has not harmed anyone.

It only becomes difficult for those who step out of line, stroll naked in the city park or dash across Stephansplatz. Because norms are culture-dependent, being naked has different consequences in the Orient than in the Amazon jungle. Go to Croatia once in the summer. The bare skin shines in the sun on the rocks on the Adriatic Sea. Even in the Salzkammergut, in summer, many people dive into the clear lakes in their Adam's costume. Here nudity is not a taboo break and therefore completely normal.

If your sons learn that it is normal to be naked in your home, then that is in accordance with the rules of your domestic culture and will certainly not harm your children. If at some point in the course of his development one of your sons no longer wants that, you should respect it - it probably isn't. The fear of an increased risk of abuse through domestic nudity is unfounded. Your children would notice if someone approached them immorally, with or without clothes, you will surely have informed them and warned them about it. Domestic wrapping is no protection against abuse. After all, nobody walks around naked in the Catholic Church either, and yet there is abuse there. (Hans-Otto Thomashoff, November 29, 2019)