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There was a time when I wondered if I’d ever be able to take a shower by myself again. My two boys were relentless in following me, often hysterically, from room to room. And that included the toilet and the shower, two places where it is every person’s right -- except a parent’s -- to be alone.
So we often bathed together. It wasn’t until my precocious son once said, after a family bath, "I have small nipples, Daddy has big nipples, but Mommy has great big nipples!" that I thought about whether or not I should be naked in front of my boys. He wasn’t even four yet, and it was just a (painfully) accurate observation, but it begged the question: When does it start to be confusing for kids to see their parents naked?
Pediatricians say that generally preschool to early school age is the best time to phase out the group bathing. This is especially important for opposite gender parents and kids, says Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and author of Toddler 411. "I usually recommend that parents discontinue bathing together by four or five, when kids start to notice and examine their body parts. If you're teaching your child to keep her 'private parts' private, the same goes in your household."
I don’t want my kids to be ashamed of their bodies, or think I’m ashamed of mine, but Brown says you also want to convey the message that those body parts are not supposed to be shared with other people. "By you demonstrating that, you are teaching your child what is appropriate." Family bath time has been reduced to a "Daddy bath," but there are times when I take the kids into the shower (the last was when I needed to desperately steam their lungs so they’d get a good night’s rest from their coughing). Brown says when your kids start to obviously look or even grab or touch your private parts, it’s probably time to cover them up.
That said, it’s really up to how you feel and how your child is reacting. One friend is adamant his four-year-old daughter never sees him naked, another dad just recently showered with his five-year-old daughter to get the ice cream out of their hair. Another mom says she’d never get clean herself if she didn’t bring both her 3 year-old daughter and 5-year-old son into the shower. And there are times -- like changing into your suit at the pool -- where privacy may not be an option. It comes down to what makes you comfortable and how your kid is reacting. If they're more concerned with the soap bubbles then your hair down there, then don’t worry, you’ve got time.