Though we send our kids to school for their education, arguably their most important education happens in the home. Our children learn a lot from us, including mannerisms, habits, and routines. We also, intentionally or not, teach them how they should feel about their bodies and what they should and shouldn’t feel shame for. This mom wrote an essay for Insider about why she and her husband have allowed their children to see them naked. In her family, they have only seen positive outcomes.
Why I Let My Children See Me Naked
Rachel Garlinghouse and her husband are parents to four adopted children between the ages of five and early teenage years. As you can imagine, they’ve had a pretty busy household for over a decade. Rachel explained that at one point, they had three children under the age of four all at the same time. She stated that their children seeing them naked, at first, was simply a safety thing.
“We never closed our doors because we had to supervise our children at all times,” she explained. “When we would occasionally take a quick bathroom break to shower or use the toilet, we needed to be able to hear our kids — just in case.” (1)
From there, leaving doors open when they changed or were using the bathroom just became a natural, normal thing in their home. It wasn’t a conscious decision. The parents simply didn’t bother overthinking it.
Rachel went on to explain how leaving the doors open as their children got older unintentionally led to some important conversations. Typically, these conversations centered around hygiene, bodies, and boundaries.
“Our kids aren’t shocked by natural bodies and bodily functions, like periods. By knowing what was going on, within the comfort of our own home, they felt free to ask us questions, which varied from what products to use to manage a period to how babies are made.”
She’s realized that these conversations have allowed them to talk about bodies in a way that doesn’t cause her kids to feel embarrassment or shame. Rachel doesn’t want her kids to feel that their bodies are something they should be ashamed of or have to hide. The couple has also allowed their kids to establish their own boundaries. If they wish to close the door while they’re changing, showering, or otherwise, they do so.
Rachel explained that, of course, sometimes she and her husband close their door. They do so when they are wrapping gifts, for example, and of course when they are being intimate with one another. Their children know that if the door is closed, they must knock first and be invited in before entering.
“I want my kids to learn about bodily autonomy within our home so they aren’t shocked or conflicted as they grow up and experience situations outside of it.”
The most important conversations that leaving doors open has led to are those surrounding bodily autonomy. For their four children, all of whom are black, this has opened the door for conversations about hair touching, among other things.
“My children are Black, and many white adults try to touch their hair — uninvited. We’ve talked about this topic many times in our home, role-played, and emphasized that it’s not OK for an adult to touch them without permission. We often remind our kids that “no means no,” that Black hair is sacred, and that no one can just reach out and stroke it.”
They’ve talked about physical affection versus inappropriate touching, as well as secrets and surprises. They’ve taught their kids that surprise birthday gifts that are wrapped are one kind of secret or surprise. Adults asking them to keep a secret are something else, and their kids should always tell them if that happens to them.
No Topic Off-Limits
Their openness has meant that their children have had discussions about all kinds of things that other kids have to learn from their peers or the media. As we know, these are not necessarily great places to be learning from.
“Our openness has led to important discussions about everything from puberty to healthy relationships, bodily autonomy, consent, and body positivity. It’s also helped us talk about different body types, making healthy food choices, exercising, and mindfulness. It’s even helped with practical day-to-day routines, like face washing, shaving, and other hygiene,” Rachel explained. “My children have seen many of these happening naturally, as they pop into our bathroom to chat about whatever is on their minds.”
Rather than rely on the school system or a busy doctor to teach their children about their bodies, they have done it themselves. Their open-door household has led to open-door conversations and education. It has allowed them to be their children’s first educators.
Does this mean that suddenly you should start leaving doors open in your home? Not necessarily, if you’re not comfortable with that. It should, however, be a reminder that all parents should be having conversations like these with their children. We want to raise generations of children that are comfortable with their bodies and talk about everything that comes along with having one. Children who understand consent, bodily autonomy, and what is and isn’t appropriate. This way, we will raise generations of adults that are less ashamed of their bodies and more confident in expressing their own boundaries.
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- “My kids see me naked all the time. It is so much more than nudity.” Insider. Rachel Garlinghouse. April 8, 2022.