Nudity in the Home

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My daughter in law does not believe it is necessary to wear clothing in the home. Consequently she walks aroung in the nude when my 14 and 16 year old grandsons are present. When the youngest was 7 she showered with him and got into bed with him when she and my son were arguing. I did make it public knowledge within the family and for 5 years they did not communicate with me.

During that time my granddaughter was born. She stayed in her parents bedroom until she was five and they built a new house. My son was showing me around the new house while it was under construction. He said that they had two shower heads installed in the master bath because my granddaughter was such a water hog.

I know he was disturbed about his wife bathing with his youngest son, but now it appears that that he & his wife are bathing with my 5 year old granddaughter at times. Friends tell me I should call child protective services. If I did, I would never have contact with my grandchildren.

I personally never bathed with my children and as a foster parent I know that those behaviors would not he condoned. But how can I intervene and also keep the relationship?

A: There is a reason we term genitals “private” parts. Nudity is a signal for sexual intimacy. Yes. Yes. Before I get a thousand posts about this: I know that there are places and cultures where nudity isn’t such a big deal and people are perfectly healthy. I know that there are private clubs for those who share the belief that communal nudity is a celebration of the human body. But this letter comes from the Bible belt of the US where adult nudity with children and adolescents is not the norm and from a grandmother who is worried. As a foster parent, she has seen the consequences of inappropriate sexuality on children. She wants to make sure her grandkids are okay.

To the worried Grandma: I think you should start with a private, non-judgemental talk with your son. Make sure that you tell him that you understand that families have different ideas but that you are concerned, especially since he once seemed bothered by it too. Ask him to help you feel reassured that there are no sexual overtones to the family nudity. Ask him how they deal with the fact that the rest of their world doesn’t approve. This conversation will give you more information to work with. It may be that you will be relieved to find that your son and his wife have carefully thought this out and are raising their kids in a healthy way that respects sexual boundaries. If not – then you’ll be faced with the dreadful decision of whether to report the parents (and perhaps lose the relationships) in order to keep children safe. I certainly hope it doesn’t come to that.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Apr 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Nudity in the Home. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/04/27/nudity-in-the-home/