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Mother Showering & Sleeping In Same Bed With 5 Year Old

Question:

Please help, I’m extremely concerned. My fiance has a son, who is 5 let’s just say his name is "Roy". Now "Roys" mother is his primary care giver he’s there for the most part 5 days a week, we get him for a couple hours during the week and Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. His mothers shares a bed with him (even though "Roy" has his own bedroom and his own bed. "Roys" mother also showers with him on a daily basis-6 days a week. Now to me this is so……. abnormal. My question is whether or not she is causing any future mental develpoment problems???? My fiance is also very concerned but is very passive. We attempted to explain to "Roy" he should take a shower alone and sleep alone which he does while he is at our house and he screams and cries and said his mom is the boss. What is your opinion, and what should we do if anything.

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Answer:

There was a time when it was believed that children would suffer terrible trauma if they saw the nude bodies of their parents or of other adults. It was thought that viewing nude bodies was too stimulating for children and could harm their development. While it is true that it would be better if "Roy" slept in his own bed and did not shower with his mother it is not necessarily for reasons having to do with sexual trauma. Let me explain:

In societies where there are few or no clothes, such as among the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert, anthropologists have found no evidence of psychological harm to Bushmen children.

However, in modern society today there are other problems with families and children must learn to cope. For one, we live in a clothed society. Social norms in the United States as around most of the world today, it is expected and even demanded that people wear clothing. There are a few exceptions in some countries such as France. However, those exceptions are restricted to certain beach locations where people are free to sun bathe without wearing clothing. The French Riviera is one such area. For the remainder of the world, from the United States going east, west, north and south, the world is expected to wear clothes. Therefore, what Roy’s mother is doing is counter to what Roy will experience throughout the rest of his life.

Roy faces a much more serious problem as a result of sleeping in bed with his mother and showering with her. An important aspect of development is the establishment and reinforcement of boundaries among people. Boundaries refer to the fact that every human being has a certain amount of space around the self and other people. Psychologically, everyone must learn that each human being has separate identity and is entitled to their separate space. The establishment and reinforcement of boundaries are made more difficult for Roy because he may not learn that there is a separation or distance between parents and children. In terms of generations in modern society, there are certain behaviors that parents and adults do not reveal to children. Among these are sexual behavior and revealing the adult nude body. Clothes are an additional way to maintain the fact of boundaries between children and adults.

But, what about sexuality?

The fact is that showing with his mother could be over-stimulating for Roy. After all, in a social structure where everyone dresses and the body is kept hidden, viewing his mother’s body can be experienced as exciting for Roy. At age five, this is more stimulation or excitation than he needs or would know what to do with. Yes, children at age five and younger do experience sexual feelings. We do not want them distracted by sex but to direct their energies into learning, competing and socializing.

Overall, it would be much better for Roy’s mother to stop showering with him or allowing him to sleep with her. He is a big enough boy to do these things by himself. That is what is meant by setting boundaries: Roy is big enough or old enough to sleep in his own bed and care for his own showering or bathing. These things would help him learn that he is capable which then allows him to strengthen his sense of self and self control.

What can you do?

Telling Roy to shower and sleep by himself is not helpful because he is not old enough to persuade his mother. Besides, by telling him these things you are pitting him against his mother and you, your fiancée and his mother need to present a united front to Roy so that he does not come to feel that he can manipulate either his mother or father by telling each that the other has given him permission for something.

You and/or Roy’s father need to speak to Roy’s mother in a friendly and accepting way and encourage her to allow Roy to sleep in his own bed and shower along for Roy’s sake. In having this discussion it is important to be friendly and encouraging rather than hostile or competitive.

Unless his mother is seducing Roy there is no clear proof that he is being caused harm even though what she is doing runs counter to common practice.

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Comments
  • Mom

    I showered with both of my children until they were around 5 or 6. So did my best friend with her children. It is just not a big deal. It is not at all sexual.

    Both of my children and both of my friend's children are perfectly fine and well adjusted, the older two are married and employed and have no major hangups, the younger two are in college and have friends and normal lives.

    I also allowed my children to sleep in bed with me until they chose to sleep in their own beds, which they both did in early grade school. Then if there was a bad storm they might want to come in my room, otherwise, again, just not a big deal.

    None of our children have boundary problems. None are sex offenders or unbalanced in any way.

    What DOES damage children is when divorced parents react with disapproval to the other parent. Children sense these tensions and don't understand them. The negative vibes can cause the children stress and anxiety. That IS harmful.

    Keep your nose in your own family's business, and you should not be meddling with your boyfriend's ex-wife's relationship with her children.

  • sandy

    I agree. You should not be involved in this decision or be judgemental. It seems you need to be more aware of your own boundaries. You simply need to get used to the idea that you got involved with a man who has a child with another woman and learn to keep your life separate from making decisions with their children. You would not like it if his ex had opinions on your parenting.

  • Carrie

    I lived in South America for a while and personal boundaries weren't handled the same way as in America. I had sleep overs with girls I'd just met at times.

    One such girl, a white girl with red hair-just so you understand this isn't an indigenous culture issue-told me her parents still asked her to sleep with them. She was 29 year old architect.

    It's important to consider also that norms vary across the USA, too. With as many hippies as there are in the NorthWest-we have nude beaches, too-kids often learn differing expectations for personal boundaries.

    I think there's merit in the other comments. A major component of this issue is that you are not the "Roy's" mother and you have to step back and decide whether you are concerned about "Roy" or trying to influence how this woman chooses to raise her child. No advice from an expert is justification for undermining someone's autonomy and your main motivation is competition. Different experts will give you different advice-don't just listen to what you want to hear. Think about what is really best for "Roy" and his mom.

  • Anonymous-1

    I have two boys, ages 38 (slept with me until he was 8) and 16 (slept with me until he was 6). Ironically, when this topic has come up in the past, neither remembers anything other than always having his own room. Each has very strong opinions about young children, especially boys, sleeping with their parent and found it hard to believe this true of them. Based on personal experience, it seems that single parents, mostly females, practice this behavior more so than couples. With both my boys, there was a discussion about when it was time for them to claim their own room. I believe many more parents practice this behavior than we think, but choose not to discuss it because of the stigma it carries.

  • Anonymous-2

    I have seen two examples of this. One with a mother who was meeting her own need for closeness because of abandoment by her husband. It is unfair of her to expect her pre-school child to fill that gap, and that attitude may damage the child. The other with a couple who had an extremely strong-willed child who insisted on entering the bathroom when her parents were in there (in her teens) and insisted on sleeping with her parents anytime she wanted to. The girl has been on anti-depresants for years. I've heard that children without boundaries have such problems. They gave up trying to argue her into anything. The girl is now out of high school, extremely self-centered and expects the world to revolve around her. Their giving in to this girl has damaged her severely.

  • Bob D

    I can tell you why it is probably not healthy. I am dealing with a similar problem with my wife. Her parents had no boundaries with her growing up and she has had serious problems with intimacy and sex. She was the victim of what has been called 'covert incest'. Essentially, her parents relied on her to fulfill their emotional needs. She was not touched but because her parents had a bad marriage and no intimacy...they imposed their emotional needs on their daughter. It robs the child of their childhood...they respond to their parents needs and not to their own. They grow up confused about their needs. Much like children who have been overtly abused.

    If parents are aware of the importance of boundaries then they wouldn't do this. It may cause serious problems later in life for the child.

  • crystal 23

    my brother and i slept with our single father till i was five my brother till about 7 or 8and i remeber taking a shower with him when i was five and once with my mother when i was 6 and remember feeling uncomfortable and awkward like not wanting to see them naked...i didnt like showering and now that i have two boys 2 and3 they sleep with me almost every night and shower when im in a rush but i keep my underwear on because the try and touch me and say boobs!!...

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