I went to a Boy Scout camp where I shared a cabin with another boy. It was summer and I lived in the southeastern US, so it was very hot even over night. But I wasn't sure what to sleep in and was very nervous about the idea of getting undressed in front of another guy. The first night, I wore my clothes to bed. So did he. After a night or a few nights, I decided it was just too hot to go to bed fully dressed, so I pulled off my shirt. Not only did my cabin-mate not object or treat me oddly, he did did the same. Another night I took off my shorts and slept in my boxers. Again, my cabin-mate did the same right after I did. He was simply waiting to see what I would do! It was something of a revelation for me to realize that other guys were just as awkward and unsure as I was, and that often they were just waiting to see what others would do, just like I was. That realization made me much more comfortable in a variety of social situations and I hope that by sharing my experience here, others can learn this earlier and experience that same freedom and confidence.
While slightly off topic for this blog, I wanted to address an issue that sometimes causes concern and insecurity for young men. Since many of my readers are young men seeking guidance and reassurance on what to wear or not to wear in various situations, I expect a number of them will find this topic relevant. What should one wear when sleeping over at a friend's house? What about when having a friend sleep over at your house? Different households have different rules and habits and feeling these things out can occasionally be a bit awkward. You don't want to feel inappropriately dressed or make anyone else feel awkward.
How to treat these situations depends on the specific circumstances. If there is an extra room you will have to yourself, dress however you like for bed as it should be assumed you will be afforded some degree of privacy by this arrangement. If you will be sharing a room with a friend, you may be tempted to automatically dress more modestly than you ordinarily would, but that may actually make your friend more uncomfortable if they normally wear less. If you dress in pajamas, but your friend (host or guest) normally sleeps in boxers and has no pajamas, it may make him feel quite awkward.
Don't assume that just because your friend wears pajamas, or a t-shirt with his boxers, that your wearing boxers or foregoing a shirt will make him uncomfortable. Some people just have different preferences, it doesn't mean that we will find someone else's choice inappropriate. He may even decide he prefers what you wear, once presented with the option. When in doubt, ask. If your friend dons pajamas for bed, tell him what you normally wear and ask if it would make him or his family uncomfortable.
As a guest, you should mostly follow your host's lead on what to wear to the breakfast table, sitting up to watch a movie, or out in the yard. Some families that find it perfectly acceptable to go shirtless to bed or in the yard, have rules about proper dress for the table, etc. If you are the host, don't be afraid to go shirtless anytime you normally would, it's your house and your guest is more likely to feel set at ease than to be disturbed in any way.
Most of us feel more comfortable knowing what is "normal". For the record, most guys sleep in their underwear, usually boxers or boxer briefs, sometimes with a t-shirt. Very few guys sleep in their street clothes. If both of you are going to bed in street clothes, it is much more likely that both of you prefer to sleep in boxers, etc, and are simply too awkward or embarrassed to undress in front of the other without some indication they will not find it odd. Usually, if you take the lead, your friend will follow. If you aren't comfortable taking the lead, say something. Mention what you normally wear, or that sleeping in clothes is uncomfortable.
It is less common for guys to sleep naked (although certainly not abnormal, it's actually more common than street clothes), and it is more common for guys who would sleep naked at home alone to put on clothes when others are around. If you normally sleep naked, I would suggest at least wearing boxers or something to bed. That said, if you sleep over with a friend and both of you sleep naked and it doesn't bother either of you, that's no big deal, there's nothing wrong with it.
Finally, a note for parents when your kids have a friend sleeping over: There is no reason to expect them to dress more modestly than they would at home. It's perfectly normal for boys to sleep in their boxers or underwear. Unless your guest's parents have indicated otherwise, there should be no reason to enforce a stricter dress code than you normally have in your home. Even if the boys sleep naked, there is no cause for concern, it's no different than what they commonly encounter in a locker room.
Hopefully this will make a lot of people more comfortable and set some minds at ease. Feel free to share your opinions and experiences in the comments.
Maybe you've read this blog in the past and felt that the freedom to go shirtless and be comfortable with your own body would be greatly beneficial to your son or sons, as well as to any young man, but felt that social pressures have become increasingly restrictive among your child's peer group. Are you concerned that your children's friends seem excessively shy about shirtlessness, or may even intimidate their peers who dare to bare their chests? Perhaps you have wondered what you can do to help them overcome these attitudes, to be comfortable in their skin and develop a positive body image. Each person's situation and family relationships are unique, but hopefully some of the advice here will be able to help, at least to encourage you in the right direction.
How you approach this situation depends a lot on your children's ages. It is much easier to start at an early age. Young boys emulate their fathers. Set the example by going shirtless in appropriate situations, such as doing yard work or hanging around the house. When they are young enough for you to dress them, let them go out in the yard to play without a shirt. Wrestle around in the floor with them shirtless.
If you aren't quite comfortable with yourself shirtless, consider working out and improving your own fitness, but don't forget that you don't have to be perfect. See my previous post, Getting Started. Being fitter may also make your children more likely to emulate you as they get older, rather than dismissing your shirtless habit as some kind of old man thing they are embarrassed of. Again, you don't need to have the chiseled physique of a Greek god, but we should all take care of our bodies.
Consider getting your boys involved in activities where it is commonly accepted for them to go shirtless. Especially for older boys, it can really help for them to see the example among their peers as well. Consider activities like bouldering, or any sport or recreation area where other boys their age commonly go shirtless.
Perhaps you yourself previously taught your sons to be somewhat shy and apprehensive about taking off their shirts and have had a change of attitude. Change is difficult and can leave you wondering where to start. As adults we feel like we are always supposed to be right and never change our minds, but it is important that we show our children that we are rational people who change our minds on the basis of evidence and reason. If you have laid out rules, explicitly or implicitly, don't be afraid to tell them directly the rules have changed. "Remember when we said that you should keep your shirt on when you mow the grass? We've decided that it is completely healthy for you to take your shirt off when you are doing yard work if you want to." Sometimes just the suggestion that it is acceptable in a particular circumstance is all it takes to set them at ease. "It's pretty common for guys to take off their shirts when they go climbing in the area we are going to, so you should feel comfortable taking yours off if you want to."
But finally, don't push it too hard or you'll make it seem weird. The whole point is that it should be natural, comfortable. Don't make them go shirtless, leading by example and on occasion a gentle suggestion should suffice. If your kids have already gotten to be really shy, it make take some time for them to loosen up. Don't worry too much. Try get them in situations where it comes naturally and don't push them too much.
If your child seems to have issues with body image and self-esteem, you might want to address that. If he isn't comfortable with his physique, offer him some guidance on how to work towards what he wants. Again, you can find some helpful advice in the post, Getting Started. Let him know that he doesn't have to meet someone else's ideal to feel comfortable with himself, but that if he wants a better physique, and more importantly a higher level of health and fitness, he can achieve his goals through consistent hard work and healthy lifestyles. If you feel like you aren't able to give the help and guidance he needs, consider getting him on a sports team with a coach who can help or even working with a personal trainer.
Ultimately, the important thing is to give your kids a balanced sense of self-worth, confidence, and the responsibility to care for themselves and their bodies. Try to make them comfortable with themselves, but don't worry too much about whether they adopt the same habits you do.
Spending time holding your baby skin-to-skin is a great way for fathers to bond with their babies. Skin-to-skin care has been shown to have a variety of benefits for babies, calming and stabilizing the infant. Ideally, as soon as a baby is born, it should be placed directly to it's mother's breast for care and feeding, but when this isn't possible because of cesarean delivery or medical complications, the father providing skin-to-skin care has also been shown to be beneficial. Of course, even if the mother is available to immediately take the baby, there will always time for the father to spend time later holding the baby skin-to-skin and have that bonding experience.
Some men may feel uncomfortable taking their shirts off in the hospital, but remember this is for the baby's benefit and there is medical research to back it up. Besides, this is your childbirth experience and the hospital staff is supposed to be there to support you, you should not feel uncomfortable about caring for your baby as you see fit.
Especially if the mother is not available immediately after birth or if your baby requires extended care in NICU, etc, you should insist upon being able to provide skin-to-skin care for your baby. If you want some evidence to show your health care provider or hospital staff regarding the benefits of skin-to-skin care, you can use these references:
In keeping with tradition, here are a few shirtless Halloween costumes that were submitted this year. If anyone would like to write a brief story about their shirtless costume experience, I would be glad to include it as a guest posting on the blog. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For now, here are just a few photos of shirtless costumes that were shared.
Three little Indians?
Ok, I'm really not sure what/who the guy on the left is supposed to be. I believe the middle guy (not quite shirtless) is Aladdin, and the guy on the right, Tarzan.
And the Smurfs.
Time to start planning those shirtless costumes for next year! (Depending on your chosen character, you may want to hit the gym now, LOL.)