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Naturism - What shall we tell the children

If you decide to try naturism for the first time as a family, how best to discuss things with your children is a question that crops up periodically.

NUFF was asked to enlist the collective wisdom of the 'uk.rec.naturist' newsgroup and thanks are due to those naturists who replied and on whose replies these pages are based.

Every family is different and, without knowing the family concerned, it is difficult to give specific advice but some example situations have been chosen as possibly helpful.

How old are the children?

As children get older they become more autonomous as foreign holidays or nudity around the house are likely to be of help.

  • What to tell them before going

They should be told something before going. How much, and when, depends on the maturity of the child. Most parents have good gut responses to the level of consultation appropriate to various situations. In respect of naturism, there will be "in the family" attitudes to nudity to take into account. Things like whether any or all family members bath/shower with the door locked, for example. Just as children happily use different vocabularies with their peers and with their parents (and yet another one with teachers, etc), they seem to have no problem presenting different attitudes in different situations (hey, adults do it all the time - where do you think they learned to do it?). So while they might feel peer pressure to regard social nudity as "rude", "naughty", "sexy" or "gross" (depending on who is nude in front of whom), and would happily echo such attitudes, they may also happily enjoy family naturism in the back garden, or have a great time at a naturist resort.

Young children, say those under 5 or 6 years old, can just be taken. For young, easy-going kids a simple "right, we're off to the swimming pool now" could well be all that's required:

"We did not bother telling the kids , they were used to us and them being nude around the house and seemed to accept others doing the same. (they told nearly everyone, you can not stop that). Our kids were quite young, I suppose if they were older you would have to explain, maybe the easiest way to introduce them to naturism is to go to swims first as it is more natural (to them) to undress to swim, but less so to socialize nude. Make sure where you are going has other children as this will help a lot."

Primary age children should have it explained to them before going that people will not be wearing swim suits and they will not need to wear one either. Any initial reticence about going will disappear very quickly once they start to have fun.

For adolescents, broach the outing in advance, making it clear that the swim is naturist, and that there will be no obligation on the child to go or to be nude if they do go.

It is advisable to check whether the venue is nudity compulsory as it is best to give children the choice. I have been told that this is the CCBN Child Protection recommendation. Some of the contributors advised avoiding child nudity compulsory venues because of the child protection implications. The under fives couldn't care less what they are, or are not, wearing.

Putting pressure on children to remove costumes is likely to be counter productive. If no big deal is made about it, they do normally dispense with them in their own time.

One respondent felt that children should always be fully consulted and given the choice, but others felt that they should do as their parents decided:

"I coaxed a friend into going. We discussed it one morning, her 8-9 y/o daughter was with us at the time. The daughter didn't want to go because of the nudity. That evening, we all went. The daughter was in tears. The daughter gladly went again and again and again - and got her elder sister to go too."

So, would it have been right to let her back out?

Many would consider that to be a high risk strategy:

"Obviously, there shouldn't be pressure. If it's clear that a child doesn't want to go, or wouldn't be happy, then it's totally pointless dragging them along. OK, so they just might "love it when they got there", but most kids like to prove that their presumptions were the right ones. "I told you this museum would be Bore-RING!" As regards naturism, in my opinion a key factor in making it OK for kids of particular ages/attitudes to come along is to make it clear that costumes are optional (actually seems to be desirable for adults - eg the success of the MADNAT taster sessions and ladies-only pre-sessions). Unless the kids are confirmed naturists themselves, even if they've experienced beach/holiday naturism they may feel uncomfortable at the idea of going to a local swimming pool without a costume. So any swim with an absolute no costumes policy should be avoided."

Peer and sibling influences can be funny things:

"Kids are funny concerning choice. We have a family at our swim, two girls (one of his and one of hers) and a baby (one of theirs). One of the girls will invariably wear her costume if her step-sister is present and invariably be naked if her step-sister is not there."

  • What the children think

Young children couldn't care less, so long as they have a good time!

Primary and teenage children become more concerned about what their peers may think as they get older. Explaining about confidentiality at this point will both help to reassure them, and also help to make them aware of the need for discretion. It can be pointed out that it is up to them as to what they tell their friends, because nobody else will. The presence of other kids at the swim in their own age group becomes increasingly important to them, and will also help to reassure them.

The following is the normal reaction from primary age children, although some will want to wear a costume, at least to begin with:

".. well I don't have children, so it has never been a problem, however we are god-parents to two children and they have at times stayed with us. One of the weekends we were going to a local swim, and asked the parents if they had any problem of us taking the children along. Both parents had shown some interest in naturism, but had never gone any further because he was concerned about 'his reaction' in a naturist environment. We just told the kids, 8 and 10, that we were going swimming in the evening, but where we swam no-one wore a costume. They did ask if they could keep theirs on, and we said we would ask. When we got there we went into the changing room and stripped off and said to the kids, 'come on, get undressed', no mention about wearing their costumes they stripped off and were soon playing with the other kids. At the end they asked if they could do it again."

  • Children and Discretion

Older children know the difference, but are not keen to tell anyone who won't understand, for their own reasons. Younger children probably won't even realize there is anything special to report! However, there is no absolute certainty about this, especially if there are problems between members of the family, particularly between teenagers and parents.

One respondent wrote:

"Again, the least said the better. In conversation with parents it never ceases to amaze me how quick children appear to be in developing a sixth sense in this matter. You see the same with bi-lingual kids, they always get it right when it comes to speaking the appropriate language when in company and they never mix languages."

Peer pressure and "Street Cred" are of course complicating factors but they usually result in kids going erring on the side of discretion rather than the other way round. Bear in mind too that "tan-lines" often loom large on their horizons. How can you show off a sun tan if you haven't got some white bits in contrast.

and another commented:

"... in my opinion there's absolutely no need to worry about this one. Which doesn't stop people worrying, but may give some reassurance."

OK, so kids can really enjoy putting a parent on the spot with an embarrassing remark during a visit to doting grandparents, and regarding at least some aspects of parental attitudes and activities as appalling when chatting to one's mates is essential. But children seem to develop extremely acute sensitivities about what they can/can't should/shouldn't say in various situations. If social nudity is frowned on by their peers, they will probably frown on it to those peers - whether they enjoy it for themselves or not.

A member of the Naturist Foundation wrote:

"Most of the kids at the Naturist Foundation over about 8 yo have been told that there are places where it's best not to mention the club, or just to mention that we have caravans there. AFAIK they were simply told that "not everybody agrees with naturism, so we don't tell everyone."

Of course, for the "avoid embarrassment" factor to work, the parent must play their part too, and not chatter happily to a child's friends about things the child doesn't want those folk to know.

Several years ago, Channel 4 broadcast a shortish play called "The Spy Who Caught A Cold", about a young girl going on a naturist holiday with her Mum. Both had a good time. Over the closing credits, the youngster is chatting with a friend about the holiday, and being emphatic that she certainly hadn't been nude. Which, of course, she had. It rang very true.

And another contribution was:

"I know of a family who have two daughters who always used to come to our Tuesday swim. They also went to many of the other local venues such as Doncaster Dome, the youngest one (about 12) did seem to tag along with me, and I did have some misgivings about what her parents might think, however they had no problems, and I think sometimes were happy to have someone else 'child sitting' especially in the water race part of the Dome, where this girl was not allowed without adult supervision."

"One time, about a week or so after a Dome evening she told me she had had to draw a picture of what she had done at the weekend. She had chosen to draw a picture of us showering at the end of the evening, but she did say, 'I put swimming costumes on all of us'. She was fully aware that her lifestyle might not be understood by others at school, and just altered details slightly so as not to give herself problems with her peers."

  • Children's Friends

It's possible that a child who enjoys family naturism, including swim sessions, might suggest that a friend comes along. At that point it may be necessary to talk about the fact that some people think naturism isn't a Good Thing at all, and that the friend and/or the friend's parents might be such people. It's probably best to follow your instincts on that.

I have heard of one instance of this happening with older primary children. The friends didn't go to the swim, but the naturist children were perceived as being braver than them.

Child protection guidelines also suggest that great care is needed (ideally written permission) if the child is not with parents/grandparents/guardian.

From Source:


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