Swimming Topless – Inappropriate for Girls or Not?

My daughter is 8, she’s very self conscious about her body.  For reasons unknown to both her dad and I she does not like to show her belly button and always chooses a swim suit that covers her navel.  We like her modesty and always encouraged her to pick a swim suit she would feel comfortable “swimming” in.
During our visit to Spain late last year and early this year in France she noticed that many little girls at the pools and beaches who are the same age swam with only a bikini bottom.  Curious, she asked me, “Mom, how come they don’t wear the other piece of their swim suit?”

Good question, and one I couldn’t quite answer.

Swimming Topless - Inappropriate for girls

Wandering the beaches of Hawaii with her rash guard

Being raised in Hawaii, we normally don’t give swim wear another thought, other than its something to “go to the beach with”.  Mixed matched tops and bottoms, shorts and shirts were often worn to the beach.  No one really cared, as long as we were able to go into the water.  But topless, we’ve never done and so I had no explanation but to say;

“In Europe, this is very normal.  If you look around you’re the only girl with a top on.” I said.

“Is that why they are looking at me funny?”, she asked. I shrugged my shoulders and gave her a smile.

With just that answer she took off her bikini top and jumped into the pool.

Swimming Topless - Inappropriate for girls

Swimming in Venezia, Italy

I’m assuming it’s because she wanted to “fit in” with the rest of the little girls swimming nearby because shortly thereafter they were all friends.

I found it amusing that a 8-year old girl could feel self-conscience about her body for 2-3 years and then ditch that behavior in a second so she can play and make a few friends.  When swimming in Europe, it’s normal for girls to swim topless until they are 10,11 or 12 years old.  It’s only until they start “developing” that a parent would then buy 2-piece or one piece suits.

Swimming Topless - Inappropriate for girls

“Mixed matched tops and bottoms, shorts and shirts were often worn to the beach.”

Summer is approaching, which means sun, sand and swimming!  My concern at the moment is that she now prefers to swim topless and we’re headed back to Michigan where I’m sure if she continues to swim without her top another parent would tell me to cover her up and proceed to lecture me on my bad parenting skills.

I am proud my daughter is finally comfortable in her skin, her body.  With so many teens and adults having body issues these days I am happy she’s finally not concerned or worried about what others are thinking, she just wants to swim and have fun like everyone else in the pool.

I understand that there are a lot of “perverts” out there, but aren’t they all over the world?

How do I tell her now to “cover up”, without making it an issue?

7 Comments

  • Here in Mexico it is often tolerated that any little girl under 7 yo could go topless- not only at a beach or aquatic park but even at home. But the girls develope some kind of modesty while they are growing and the most elder the less frequent going topless. This is especially common at the warmest regions of the country (Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean shores) in both spring and summer. A niece of mine used to go topless and wear some long shorts only at home at least till she was 10.

    • Thank you for sharing, Juan! Very interesting to note how it is all around the world – it’s quite common on beaches throughout Europe for older women to go topless, and considered the norm.

      • I am from the Netherlands and while it is tolerated at beaches for (older) women to go topless, it certainly is not the norm!
        I think the reason that older women are more likely to go topless is because it used to be normal 20 to 40 years ago. I think modern Europe is strongly influenced by the rest of the world, and unfortunately, women are now taught to be ashamed of their bodies, and are taught that their naked breasts are offensive while it is ok for men to go without a shirt.
        But this summer I won’t care about it all, I will go on vacation with a group of friends and I will go bare chested whenever I feel like it.

  • My boys grew up in Australia, where we always do everything we can to keep the sun off, so we swim in long sleeved rash vests or a T shirt (if we don’t have a rashie) and long shorts. Net result…I now have 1 son who feels naked without a shirt on, on rare occasions when it’s cloudy, or even at indoor pools, when I suggest he can go in without his shirt, he won’t!
    It’s normal in Europe to go topless, you rarely see it anywhere else, they really like their sun tans over there.

    • Two days ago I took my daughter to a surfwear company here in Detroit, Michigan since she needs a new bathing suit. She chose a bottom only and wanted a rash guard which I thought was odd. But she then proceeded to tell me how she didn’t like getting sunburn after swimming with her top off and thought a long sleeve swimsuit would be better… So I guess I didn’t need to worry so much! 🙂

  • This isn’t really comparable but maybe 😉 When we started going back and forth my boys weren’t quite sure how to eat. In Morocco they’re used to not using silverware but in the US if they eat with their hands it’s really seen as wrong. We had a chat about how sometimes things are different in the two countries and then I had them think of other things that are different. It seems to work ok but this one might be trickier… (ps love the logo!!)

    • Jaf said “God wouldn’t give us hands to eat if he didn’t want us to use our hands to eat…” How do you top that one? (this is after his dad scolded him a few times last week for eating spaghetti with his fingers) 🙂

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