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Older Child Found Naked with Younger Child

From the U.S.: My wife has an 11 year old half-brother (D.), and I have a question regarding something D. did this past Thanksgiving. D. was over at his father’s house that day for the holiday. D.’s father has an adult daughter who has a four year old boy. While at his father’s house that day, D. and the 4 year old boy were playing in one of the upstairs bedrooms. Apparently, at some point, the 4 year old boy was running around naked. D. (who again, is 11 years old) decides that since this 4 year old boy got naked, he would get naked also. Eventually, the young boy’s mother found D. and the 4 year old naked in the room together.

D.’s mother was called to come pick him up, while the young boy’s mother took him to the hospital to have him checked out. A police investigation also took place. Neither the hospital personnel nor the investigation determined anything “sexual” occurred. However, the incident with D. really upset me. My wife and I have a 6 year old daughter, and after the events of Thanksgiving, I was really nervous to have D. around my daughter.

I went several months doing my best to ignore both D. and his mother when I could. Eventually, I had a long talk with D’s. mother, and things are cordial again. She told me that she gave D’ a very long talking to after the event and immediately sought help for him from a psychologist. D. has recently started seeing a different psychologist (his 1st one drop him).

So my question is this. D.’s mother recently told me that the psychologist he is now seeing stated that what D. did on Thanksgiving was normal behavior. Is an 11 year old getting naked with a 4 year old actually considered normal? I still can’t wrap my head around why he even thought to take his clothes off in the first place. I recall when I was around D.’s age, there were a few times I was in a place where younger kids (4-5 yrs. old) were running around naked for whatever reason, and I just left the room. Even though things are cordial with D. and his mother, I still get nervous at times when he is around my daughter.

A: I understand why you are concerned. It’s not usual for an 11 year old to strip just because a younger one did so. However, there may be extenuating circumstances. Kids mature at different rates. Families have different ideas about nudity. Sometimes kids aren’t “bad” but are showing bad judgment. I can’t comment on what the psychologist said about normalcy because I don’t have access to the same information she did.

The family did many things right in this situation. An investigation took place. The little boy was checked medically. D’s mother had a long talk with him and has taken him for counseling. You’ve done your best to continue to be in relationship to the family.

I think the best thing to do now is to talk carefully with your 6-year-old about what is and isn’t okay regarding nudity with anyone but her parents and doctors. Many parents find that it is helpful to tell their child that no one should see or touch any part of the body that is covered by a swimsuit. Also help her understand that she should come to you if anyone does such a thing — no matter what. Even if someone threatens her or tells her not to tell or else, she needs to come to you.

The 11-year-old is actually your daughter’s uncle. Another possibility is for his mother to talk to him about his role as “uncle” is to help to protect his niece. Being given responsibility may help him act more maturely.

Family relationships are often challenging. The tricky thing in this kind of situation is that it’s important to keep two things in mind: You want to protect your daughter, of course. It’s also important not to let a child (D) get labelled as an offender when he may have once made a bad choice.

If I were in this situation, I would try my best to normalize the relationship with the mom and her son but I would also be very vigilant for inappropriate behavior. Then take it from there.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

from Ask the Therapist


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