When kids start to ask for privacy

Our experts shed light on why our kids need privacy, what this signals, and how to approach the concept of privacy in and out of the home.

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Photo: Tara Moore/Getty Images

By age six, most kids understand the concept of privacy, and may start asking for modesty at home. Here’s what you can do to honour your child’s privacy.

Be supportive
A child’s demand for privacy signals their increasing independence, says Sandy Riley, a child and adolescent therapist in Toronto. “It means they are growing and developing, and that’s a good thing.” Parents should take a “sensitive, supportive approach,” to help them become more comfortable with their bodies. “This is crucial for positive body image later on,” Riley says.

Talk about what’s appropriate in the home
“Every family has various levels of modesty,” says Jancy King, a psychologist who specializes in treating children and adolescents. “What’s important is to have discussions with your children about what’s appropriate in the home versus what’s appropriate outside the home.” Let them know that while it’s OK to walk around naked in their house, it may not be the case in other people’s homes. When it comes to privacy, every family has a different set of boundaries that should be respected.

Determine your level of comfort
A healthy and relaxed attitude about the human body is something Kyra Walker* has actively nurtured in her four children. “Everyone walks around naked in our home,” she says. “No one closes the bathroom door, and we sometimes sleep together, sometimes naked. We’re very comfortable with our bodies.” The 44-year-old mom says her son, 10, and daughter, 8, have yet to show any desire for privacy at home. Her two younger boys, ages three and five, have recently discovered potty talk, a sign of their increasing body awareness. All four children see nothing odd about bathing together, or with a parent, in their extra-large tub.

If one parent is more modest than the other  it provides a perfect opportunity to teach your kids about different levels of comfort even within the same home, says King. Make sure both parents are present for the discussion, so that one parent isn’t singled out.

Encourage a positive body image no matter what
Above all, teach your children to be positive and relaxed in their own skin, regardless of how naked (or not) your home may be. 

*?Name has been changed.

A version of this article appeared in our July 2012 issue with the headline “Private practice,” p. 54.

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