Do you have a bath naked when your kids are in the tub?
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Do you have a bath naked when your kids are in the tub?

Martin Rupf
Zurich, on 25.04.2022
Translation: Julia Graham

The question is, should you wear your swimming costume when your kids get in the bath with you? And is it bad if your kids catch you doing the deed? We’ve got an expert here to weigh in.

«Can you kiss your child on the mouth?» is a question I covered in my last article. Your opinions ranged from «it’s the most natural thing in the world» to «I don’t kiss my kids on the mouth because I don’t like the drool». And it didn’t stop at the topic of kissing. Reader «Stiggu» noted: «I’ve heard of dads having a shower with their trunks on when their own kids are in the shower with them because they’re scared of being considered paedophiles.»

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    Is it okay to kiss my child on the lips?

As it happens, parents have very different ideas on nudity and liberties. Personally, I get in the bath naked with my kids and walk around the house without any clothes on fairly often (with curtains closed, it goes without saying). But I also know of parents who’re embarrassed when their kids catch them naked. What does that say about us? And how formative is our own relationship with our body for our kids? That’s what I wanted to ask psychotherapist and sexologist Dania Schiftan.

Dania, last time we talked about whether it’s OK for parents to kiss their kids on the mouth. Opinion was divided. It’s likely to be the same when we look at the topic of liberties. There are children who’ve practically never seen their parents naked, while other kids are used to seeing their parents wander around the flat without any clothes on. In this instance, is there a «right or wrong» thing to do?
Dania Schiftan: Just as with the decision to kiss your child on the mouth, the question of nudity is another issue where you have to consult your inner compass. Am I walking around naked because I feel comfortable doing so, or do I want to be an exhibitionist, be provocative or get a reaction? If it’s just because you feel comfortable, then that’s good. The other reasons are more tricky.

What if I feel comfortable walking around naked but it starts to bother my kids?
It depends on the situation. I obviously get dressed when I have guests round. And it goes without saying that there are situations where being naked isn’t an option, for instance when you’re having dinner or watching TV together. On the other hand, I think it’s an issue if parents feel they can’t wander around in the buff right after a shower just because their child feels uncomfortable. In those situations, it’s best to talk about it.

«There have always been and continue to be families who live in small spaces. Obviously, children will then realise that their parents are sleeping together.»
Dania Schiftan

I still have a bath naked with my seven-year-old daughter because it feels right and natural, as you’ve already said. But there are some men who put on swimming trunks when they get in the bath…
Did you know there was a time when the recommendation was to wear trunks in the bath?

No, I didn’t realise. What was the reasoning behind that?
It was probably to avoid the risk of children seeing an erection.

That seems reasonable to me.
That’s because you equate an erection with arousal. If that was really the case while there was a child with them in the bath then yes, that would be cause for concern. But men can sometimes get an erection without any sexual arousal involved.

Fortunately, that’s never happened with my children. But what would be the right way to behave if it did?
And that’s exactly the problem. Every man would probably instantly think: «What kind of paedophile sicko am I?». Then they’d probably get nervous or panicked. And what happens to the child? They think they’ve seen something bad or evil. But that’s not the case at all – obviously, as long as it’s not sexually motivated. If you’re going into the bath with the intention of getting an erection, that’s a whole other story.

If the parents have got on a swimming costume in the bath, strictly speaking, shouldn’t children as well?
You could say so, yes. If parents don’t want to be naked in the bath, that’s a stance they’re taking. But if a child doesn’t have on a swimming costume, then that’s when you get an imbalance.

From what age is it inappropriate for children to have a bath with their parent?
There’s not a specific age or limit there either. It’s OK as long as everyone feels comfortable with it. You’ll reach the stage where it gets difficult for space reasons because you hardly have any room and it then definitely feels like you’re too close.

When it comes to their children knowing about it, parents probably have a similar feeling about the topic of sex as with erections. My wife and I are very careful not to let our children realise when we’re doing the deed – both in terms of hearing and seeing it. Are most of us just uptight?
This is another point where it’s interesting to look back in time and learn from other cultures. There have always been and continue to be families who live in small spaces. So children obviously knew when their parents were sleeping together. This just didn’t have the meaning that it often carries today.

But I still don’t want my kids to «catch» me and my wife having sex.
That’s absolutely fine. Although that probably has less to do with the fact you’re worried your kids could be harmed by realising what’s going on. It’s more about wanting to keep these very intimate moments for you and your wife.

One last question: is there a correlation between the following: the more liberally you’re brought up to think about sex, the more relaxed your attitude to sexuality is?
Hmm, only partly. Obviously, a more informal approach can mean we then in turn pass this on to our children. At the same time, we can take the stance of «I definitely don’t want to approach this in the same way my parents did» – as can be said for any sphere of life. And that goes for parents at both ends of the liberal scale. In other words, those who were more uptight and those who took every opportunity that was given to them.

For the last 14 years, Dania Schiftan has been working as a sexologist and psychotherapist in her practice in Zurich. She’s also a psychologist at Parship. You can find out more about Dania and her job in this interview:

I’d be interested to hear your opinion on this. Do you wear a swimming costume when your kids get in the bath with you?

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Half-Danish dad of two and third child of the family, mushroom picker, angler, dedicated public viewer and world champion of putting my foot in it.


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