A chubby baby clad in just a diaper is high up on the cute list but even as the little ones grow during the period of 1 to 3 years old, we can help them grow in understanding that their private areas are precisely that — Areas that should stay private.
Depending on their age, you can foster this sense of specialness by keeping toileting time behind closed doors, giving them proper names for their body parts and also teaching them that no one else can see or touch these areas except parents when helping them stay clean.
If there are older siblings at home, you can also help model the right attitude towards nakedness and body safety during diaper change times.
Things like getting older kids to stand guard at the door when you are changing baby at shopping mall change rooms "so no one else comes and sees baby when he’s changing" can help reinforce that any moment when the body is exposed is a private moment.
Teaching our kids who is a "safe person" is also part of body safety. While you may be okay if they just wear a diaper or underwear at home, it is not okay to do that if anyone else is coming over. After establishing a rule like that, just keep reinforcing it so your growing child remembers it. Most children are compliant to wearing clothing since the adults at home model that every day!
A good visual guide on which areas are private and which aren't is the "shorts and singlet" rule – any area under them are private.
Sometimes, kids at this age may giggle or go "eeee" at nakedness and things like underwear. It may be a learnt behaviour from classmates but you can counter it by saying that there is nothing gross about the body. In fact, the very reason we cover up is because the body is special. Help your child grow a healthy self-image by not using shame tactics.
Use real-life examples to explain this concept. Ask your child — If you have a very expensive object (or a very dearly loved toy), will you just leave it outside your house without securing it?
At this stage, your child may be at day care and may even take showers at school. Find out how the schools do this and teach your child to observe care — From making sure they do not stand around unclothed, not letting the opposite sex see them when they are changing and bathing, and teaching them how to shower themselves so they can do this independently.
Build upon what you have already taught them about their bodies — The covered parts under the clothes are meant to stay private.
You may also want to teach them about good touch and bad touch, and what to do in the event that someone breaches their body boundaries. Practise and rehearse with them. Such a pre-emptive approach prevents the child from being caught by surprise if anyone does anything they are uncomfortable with.
Some kids at this age may still prefer the freedom of walking around the house in their underwear. Rather than be annoyed or worried, seize the chance to build empathy. You can use opportunities like this to teach our kids more on how our actions also affect other people. While they may be comfortable lounging around the living room in their underwear, their siblings may actually feel uncomfortable with that.
Similarly, you can also teach your kids about modesty. Since they are exposed to more media content than ever, they are likely also consuming content from celebrities dressed in styles that show off more skin. The way we dress conveys an image, so use these as teaching moments to ask your children what image they think these celebrities are projecting. Would they want to project a similar image? Ask them why, and share your views without being critical of theirs; feel free to explain your family values and why you hold those values, and that you would like them to have similar values. As they approach tweenhood, you may also want to talk to your kids about puberty and how that signals the need to become more responsible about taking care of their own bodies.
Helping our kids build a healthy relationship with their bodies, grow in healthy self-image and understand how to relate healthily to those around them are all part of shaping their narrative on nakedness.
© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Share this article with someone you care for today, and you might encourage them in their journey. Share instantly on WhatsApp Mobile or on Telegram.