When our kids are small, we start laying the groundwork on a no-shame approach to their bodies by using proper names for their body parts.
This is also a body safety measure and the start of teaching our kids body autonomy and boundaries.
Even at this stage, we can model an understanding of how nakedness is meant to be private - When changing diapers, do it in a separate room. Talk about how showering and toileting should be behind closed doors and run through when it is acceptable to receive help for these and also who are the people on their safe list.
If a toddler brings a phone in to your room or bathroom when you are changing, you can even make that a teaching moment - "Oh no! The phone has a camera and I am changing now. Please put that away in case you accidentally take a photo."
Older siblings will catch on to these values too as they watch what you do. This will help them understand privacy better and when they grow older and reach a point when they desire more privacy, they will also have the language to express their wants.
While your preschooler is likely to still be very comfortable with nudity, it’s a great time to start having conversations on when nudity is appropriate.
They may also be at a phrase when toilet humour and body parts are particularly hilarious (Think fart jokes and bum shaking)!
As part of that, they may cheekily open closed bathroom doors to their older siblings’ chagrin. If this happens, don‘t respond with anger or frustration. Simply put in the right measures to avoid it happening again, e.g. remind everyone else to lock the bathroom door when they are inside. Also, calmly go through why they should not do that.
This can be as simple as repeating a few key points:
Nudity is meant for private places
Knock on the bathroom door first if it’s closed
When someone says "no", please respect them
You can also use such incidents to nurture a sense of empathy by asking questions like if a friend suddenly opens the door at school when you are in the toilet, will you like it? When you say ”no tickling”, and I keep tickling you, is that respectful?
Consistent repeating of these simple pointers will help them remember it.
Around the ages of 7-9, your child is likely to not want to be seen naked by family members. Follow their cue and demonstrate modesty too to respect their wishes.
Just like how every child has a different personality, every kid may have different comfort levels towards nudity. If there are different preferences at home, it may be helpful to have a few blanket rules to avoid conflict and to create mutual respect.
We do not ever want to equate nudity to shame or to make a child who’s more comfortable with nudity feel like he or she is “dirty” or “bad”. Not all nudity is sexual and we should not approach it that way either.
Part of holistic sexual education at home is being able to talk about sex and nudity in an open, age-appropriate and informative manner. Help our children see how the behaviour we are teaching them ties in to the values we embrace as a family.
Use everyday scenarios to teach the importance of respecting others’ opinions and feelings, especially in the area of nudity and body boundaries. It will set them up to understand issues like sexual consent. We can talk about the power of our words and actions – our actions actually have the power to affect another person. So, if their brother or sister desires privacy or does not want them to walk around the house semi-clothed, we should all work together to make our home a place we are all comfortable in.
Sometimes, as they approach their tweens and puberty, a kid may be curious about the changes in their own bodies and also how a body looks like after they hit puberty. Help meet their curiosity by talking about puberty and the expected changes. Also, always emphasise that they can come to you to ask about any topic.
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