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Despite the good intentions of many parents, prohibiting household nakedness can have negative consequences for children. In our media saturated urbanized world, children like this are primed with an appetite for nudity related subject matter (of which most is unhealthy.) It takes a bit of work for the affected parent, but you can get over this and help your children to avoid some of these pitfalls of modern living. Fortunately as a parent you have the unique opportunity to provide a healthy environment for nakedness right in the refuge of your own home.
Disclaimer: The purpose here is not to promote public nudity as a method for this How To; quite the contrary (see Warnings section below). This guide is intended primarily as a tool for parents who want to teach their children a wholesome understanding of human nakedness. This How To is intended primarily for use by parents in their home.
- Encourage family nudity without being 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 mold their conscience without making them self-conscious of nakedness. This, in turn, will help children associate nakedness to routine activity instead of exclusively naughty activity, helping illicit forms of nakedness to lose their appeal later in life.
- Allow your children - from birth - to see you in ordinary nude situations (e.g.- dressing, bathing or showering, using the toilet) or any activity where nudity is a natural part. 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. 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 & being seen nude at home isn't something "uncool, horrible, and utterly embarrassing."
- Start allowing/encouraging family nudity during potty training & continue through the school age years and beyond. You'd be surprised how quickly potty training takes root when your toddler/preschooler is allowed to go bare at home, but...be prepared for occasional "accidents" as well, and handle these situations calmly without anger or revulsion.
- As they begin to recognize differences between themselves and you or your spouse, 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"? or "Mommy and daddy have hair down here because our bodies are warmer, and it helps keep our bodies cooler (by retaining sweat)."
- A focal point for nudity that enables the whole family to participate together is very helpful. An indoor swimming pool is ideal, but not practical for most families. Saunas are also excellent for this, but are not as common in the U.S. as Europe. Other water related ideas could be an outdoor pool below or above ground. A cheaper yet more practical idea that works year round would be a hot tub. Children see this as a heated kiddie swimming pool they can use water toys in 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. They 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.
- There are many great books on pregnancy and adolescence that separate the romantic (i.e. 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.
- 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.
- Respect others' standards. One good approach is 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.
- 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.
- For families where the children are older it may be difficult 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 (men's magazines, fashion, or sports related material), television, or other media that subtly foster a "nudity is sex"? mindset. Peers are also part of the equation. It may be necessary to move to another region to get a fresh start. Teenagers especially are very keen on whether the parents walk the talk, so if a parent still models these attitudes so will the teens.
- The goal is to provide children the opportunity to see nakedness in a way that is almost non-existant in our society: to make it a neutral, non-sensuous part of everyday life in its proper context. This goes a long way toward innoculating them from the enticements so easily found outside the walls of your home and in the marketplace.
- 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 considered to be related in our society; this stems partly from puritanical attitudes, but also from decades of hedonistic influence by the swingers movement, from influences such as Hedomism II in Jamaica, the SunnyDaze Resort in Colorado, and events like Nudes-a-Poppin in Indiana.
- 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.
- Avoid exposing children to nude photography from fine art, or internet sources as some of this has a subtly skewed pornographic message that untrained eyes will not immediately recognize. The best example is you, your spouse, and older siblings or relatives who bring a very real element to human nakedness.
- Exercise proper hygiene. When exercising family nudity, always encourage/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.
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