“Mama, what’s these,” your 3-year old asks reaching out to touch your breasts while you reach down to soap him up. What started out as a fun and relaxing night-time ritual or, let’s be real here, a way to get a shower in during the course of a busy day, just got a bit complicated. When is it time to stop bathing with your toddler?
Toddlers and Parental Nudity
According to parenting expert Linda Sonna, author of "The Everything Toddler Book," young toddlers are unfazed by parental nudity. Askdrsears.com notes that one of the earliest sexuality concepts you want your child to learn is that the body is good -- all parts of it. Bathing with your baby and toddler models healthy respect for our bodies.
Around 24 months, a toddler will become curious about private parts, asking questions and evening tugging or touching. Don't dive for cover, though. That would send the message it's something to be ashamed of. You’ll just need to handle this new curiosity with composure and answer questions simply and directly. “What’s that thing daddy has?” “It’s called a penis. You have a vagina.”
Time to Cover Up
So when is it time to cover up? It's best to take your cues from your child. If you see your child covering his genitals when you enter the room, or close the door to use the toilet, he is developing a sense of modesty and the unclothed time of early childhood is over. Put an end to mother-son, father-daughter baths, start wearing bathrobes and close the bathroom door. A good way to explain the change is to say, “Now that you’re a big boy or girl, you need to have privacy and so do I.”
Helping Your Child Like His Body
As long as a parent is comfortable, a mother can continue to undress in front of her daughter and a father undress in front of his son. If a little boy expresses concern over the size of his penis in relation to his father’s, this anxiety can be soothed by explaining that all parts of his body -- hands, feet, legs and penis -- are small and will grow as he gets older. Parents can also explain that not wearing clothes is only for private times in the home when no one else is around. A balanced attitude toward nudity helps toddlers learn that their bodies are beautiful, should be respected and taken care of, and are under their control.