Does letting your kids see you naked increase body confidence?

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 Photo: Getty

A few years ago, when my son hit puberty, he became horrified by my naked body.

"Oh God, Mum, NO!" he'd cry, running from my room and shielding his eyes. "Put some clothes on!"

Still, I'm glad that he regularly saw me naked before then. It's important for kids to know what real bodies look like, bodies that don't belong to celebrities, or porn stars, or fitness gurus devoted to physical perfection.

Our kids are surrounded by images of perfect bodies. On the television. At the movies. When they open a magazine or turn on their computers. Most images are so photo shopped they bear as much resemblance to the untouched human form as a penguin does to an elephant.

And our kids are not going to grow up to have those types of bodies. Well, not unless they become celebrities, or porn stars, or fitness gurus devoted to physical perfection. And, quite frankly, these are not careers I would want for my kids. I don't want them to be focussed on external beauty. It is transient and superficial and largely beyond their control.

So how do I show my kids what real bodies look like? How do I teach them that one can be happy in a body that is not society's ideal?

By showing them my own, and by modelling my own comfort in my own skin.

My three kids have seen me naked from Day One. My big kids saw me pregnant with their little sister. They saw me breastfeed. They have all seen my caesarean scar, my post-breastfeeding boobs and tummy, my forty-something bum, my wrinkles. And they have never once seen me complain about my body. I don't weigh myself in front of my kids, I don't discuss 'fat' with my kids, and I don't point out my flaws to my kids (though admittedly I did once reassure my son that breasts are often much, much prettier than mine).

My son has decided he is too old to see me naked, and I respect his decision. But I know that he is aware of what is under my clothes, and will not expect all women to look like the women on his computer screen. And my two daughters know what adult women really look like. They know we have floppy bits and saggy bits and hairy bits and funny bits. They will not expect to grow up to have perfect figures, because the woman in their lives does not.

Most importantly, they won't expect that body confidence or happiness is conditional upon having the ideaslbody. My kids see me dance in my undies, shake my untoned bum in their faces, fold my boobs cheerfully into my bra. They see me at ease with what I have, despite it not being perfect.

I'm not always thrilled with the way I look. Like everyone else, I have days when I feel insecure. But I try very hard to keep those thoughts to myself and to radiate confidence to my kids. One of my most important goals for them is to grow up happy in their own skins. And if I can't be happy in mine, then what hope is there for them?

I am all in favour of being nude in front my kids. And the most important lesson is not what my body looks like, but how I feel about my body, in all its imperfections and glory.