Some experts say parents being naked in front of their child before the child is 6 years old is okay if it helps answer the child's questions about anatomy. Photo: IC
It took days for Tracy Fang, a 27-year-old mother, to make up her mind about allowing her 3-year-old son Bao Bao (pseudonym) to take shower with her because he had expressed curiosity about the opposite sex. The thought came up when Bao Bao walked in on his mother showering alone and asked her several questions.
"Why are you different from me? Where do you put your penis? How do you pee?" the boy asked his mother.
She had responded, "Mom is a girl. She is different from a boy like you. I do not have a penis, but I have a different body part to pee. I have breasts, which is where the milk came from when I fed you when you were a baby." In less than five minutes, Fang's son was satisfied and began to play with his toys.
Dealing with how to discuss nudity and sexual organs with their inquisitive children is an awkward, yet unavoidable topic for many parents, and many parents and experts disagree on how to best approach the issue.
In a Nanfang Daily report published in December 2014, Zeng Reiping, principal of Mingxin Kindergarten in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province said that if children who are younger than 6 years old are curious about a naked body, it's natural and acceptable for parents to show them. Child psychotherapist Dr Fran Walfish told HuffPost Live in a article in 2014 that children don't "think sexually" until they are about 6 or 7 years old, so before kids hit that age range, "discussing nudity provides an opportunity to learn about differences between the male and female anatomies."
Fang said she preferred to allow her child to see her naked at a young age rather than have his curiosity satisfied later in life through porn or misinformation from his peers.
However, Chen Zhilin, a psychologist specializing in children's education and family issues, told Metropolitan he is of the opinion that parents should avoid being nude around their child at any age because they risk negatively affecting their child's view towards nudity and sex later in life.
"For children of all ages, parents should not be nude in front of them, but this is especially true for children older than 6, when nudity easily affects their development of correct sexual concepts and could cause them to fear sexual organs, possibly leading to a psychosexual disorder when they grow up," Chen said.
While non-sexual nudity in front of young children is less of an issue, Chen said that parents' modesty (or lack thereof) around their child also teaches the child social boundaries for nudity outside of the home. He said parents should avoid undressing or being nude around their young children in case it leads them to think it's acceptable for a stranger to do the same.
However, Chen said if accidents happen and questions come up, then parents should address them directly in a scientific and open way. So in Fang's case, allowing her son to take a shower with her may have been the right thing to do. Chen said it all comes down to the comfort levels of the parent and child.
"If you think you can not handle it, then do not do it," Chen said. "It's up to the parents to decide whether to shower with their child. They should not force themselves to do it, or they may end up messing it up."
Ultimately, Chen said children will naturally want to learn about the opposite sex as well as the differences between their body and an adult's body, but parents can take opportunities as children grow older to talk to them about sex and anatomy using age-appropriate educational materials.
"Not every curiosity has to be instantly satisfied," he said.