J.S. asks from Kennesaw, GA on March 06, 2008
Explaining Adult Nudity to a Five Year Old Boy.
My family will be traveling to Europe for a few months this summer. I have lived in Italy for a few years and traveled throughout Europe, so I know about the nudity in advertising. I just realized that I have no idea how to explain nudity at public beaches or on billboards to my five year old son. Since I have lived there I know we will encounter this. We've had the private areas talk and he is very conscious of people not seeing his privates when I change his clothes in public areas. What I mean by that is I will sometimes change his clothes in a locker room with other parents and kids before and after Hockey practice. How do I explain why Europeans don't have the privates are private viewpoint? Driving around I have seen billboards with completely naked woman rubbing their boobs (PORNO sized) standing in front of a car selling car wax. Or my husband was walking and next to him was a naked man with a giant erection selling a bodywash. I think I could explain nudity in works of art in a museum, but the billboards and a half naked woman walking past him on a beach. I have no idea how to explain these things. Please don't get me wrong. Europe isn't peppered with nudity. Well, they do have a lot of naked statues. I guess I don't really know how to explain that either. In a childs mind I can already see him asking "why don't they carve them with clothes on?". I don't know. It is there and I need some idea on how to explain it when the situation arises.
I currently have no clue. My thoughts are running and yet my mind is completely blank.
Thank you for any advice you can offer, J.
So What Happened?™
Thank you so much for everyones ideas. When I realized that my son would ask question about nudity I started thinking about how as a parent I could reply. I drew a total blank. I really do mean a TOTAL blank. I love the idea to compare McDonalds. This is very easy and right on his level of understanding. Then when he does see something at the beach or anywhere I can refer back to the McDonalds comparison. I also love the idea about making a bit of a joke about it. He'd probably giggle all day about people forgetting their swimsuits and burning their butt. Thank you all so much for the ideas.
C.B. answers from Atlanta on March 07, 2008
First, please excuse my terrible English! ;-))
I am what you would call an "European" woman even if I would consider myself as a French woman only. Making a general status about Europeans is a typical American thing to me by the way. Since you've lived many years in Italy and traveled a lot you should know that there is a BIG difference between , Italy, France, England or Poland for example.So, I guess the problem will not be the same everywhere you are going to travel this summer with your little boy.
I seriously think that you are making a big deal of this "nudity"idea. I said idea because I have NEVER seen in Europe the type of nudity you are describing in your message. "Totally naked woman rubbing porno size boobs" or "naked man with giant erection"????!!!!! What are you talking about??? Of course you can find this type of pictures in magazines or adult shops, even movies but your son should not see that, right?I have lived for 35 years in many different big cities of France, traveled a lot in Italy, Spain, Germany,England, Czech Republic,Switzerland... and again I have never seen total nudity on the streets. Believe me I would have mentioned it! I think my point here is (let's be focus on how to help you with your son)that you should probably work on yourself first. You probably see it worse than it is in real. The fact that you even talked about "naked statues" in Europe as a potential problem is even a little bit scary to me!
Anyway, it is true that we see more "body parts" in magazines,movies, commercials, on billboards or on beaches in Europe than here in the states. But to me nothing that should be so disturbing to you or your little boy. I am not personally pro or against topless women on beaches for example but the more you make a big deal of it in front of your son the more it will be a problem for him. I have a 8 year's old daughter and a 5 year's old son too and they also know about their 'private areas" and being respectful.They don't run naked on the beaches when we go to France or Italy. However it is true that sometimes you can see some topless ladies or naked toddler playing in the sand. I understand how it can be a problem for you and I respect your opinion. Let's remember that we, as grown-up see an other "dimension": the sexual one! Your son is probably not aware of that yet.
Also try to explain him that in some countries it is "acceptable" to do so but he, as an American little boy, lives in a different world where people feel a different way. Maybe you'll be surprise to see that he doesn't even mention anything! And if he does, my advice would be to make fun of it like: " Do you see that? This little baby is going to get sunburns om his butt!" or " oh ! I really prefer my new cute pink bathing suit than this tiny one!It looks like she's missing something!" and so on. Kids at that age have a good sense of humor and he will make his own judgment without feeling uncomfortable.
Also if you really want to avoid this type of discussion,you should limit the access to TV a lot. It is true that you can see some explicit images. But this is common sense, right? By the way I have much more difficulties explaining to my kids what "ED" is. You know, the type of commercials you can see on Animal Planet in the middle of a kid's show for example. To me that's a lot more disturbing and my kids keep asking about what it is. See! We do not have this type of commercials on TV all the time in Europe. In France at least for sure.
Also, don't worry about the statues!Especially the Greek and Romans one. Tell stories about the Olympics for example and how and why they were running naked. They will look like heroes.
And last but most important to me, traveling is all about discovering new cultures. You can disagree, have your own opinions but you should also always try to understand that this is a part of OUR world and that in some countries it is acceptable to do things that are not in others.It is just a question of perspective! What a great experience you are going to share with your family! He is a lucky 5 years old.
Go to Europe and enjoy your trip! I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time.
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M.C. answers from Atlanta on March 07, 2008
My thoughts on this are: If we make a big deal about something our children will as well. I would tell my child that in some other parts of this Awesome world, not everyone believes the same. Reminding my child of how WE deal with nudity in our family or where we live.telling him/her that Bodies are all different and if my child has any questions about something he/she sees that they can ask me anything. Keep it simply younger children only need simple honest answers. I hope you have a terrific trip, I know you will do fine no matter how you chose to explain to your child about this delicate matter. Good Luck I dont know if i helped or not.
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M.A. answers from Columbus on March 07, 2008
I have lived and traveled in Europe extensively both with and without my husband and children and while there is nudity (especially in ads) I have found that if you just treat it with respect and like it is no big deal then the kids will as well. My oldest daughter grew up going to nude beaches and seeing that type of ads and we always insisted that we wear bathing suits and just told her that our bodies are private. When she asked, we told her that some people don't think their bodies are private but we do. She never asked another question and would talk to people on the beach (both clothed and non-clothed) like it wasn't a big deal. Kids just don't get wrapped up in all that. Now, at 13, it would probably be different but at 5-7 she never said a word. Just don't worry about it. Treat it with respect and give simple straightforward answers and move on. If you act nervous or point it out to them then your son will learn to do the same. It'll be a great trip. It's so fabulous that you can give your son this opportunity at such a young age. Enjoy!
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B.M. answers from Atlanta on March 06, 2008
I have been to Europe several times and never encountered that much nudity, but I can see your concern. I would wait until the questions come and go from there. Once my daughter came in the room when people were making out on the TV and she asked us why they were eating like that. In their innocence, kids don't always realize what they are seeing is something that can be interpreted as sexual.
As for the art, just explain that people are beautiful creations, and these artist's wanted to show the whole person. Lots of the sculptures are based on mythology and other stories, where the person would be nude, like the Birth of Venus, so you could go from that way too. There is a great movie of Sesame St. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They visit the Greek and Roman galleries, and there are some boobs and such, but I just explain that the artist was trying to show the whole body and my kids seem happy with that explaination.
I would just try to keep cool, and stay relaxed. He may see some things, but you can find some way to explain it away, when you see the context of the ad. If there is a lady with boobs showing something like, "that is an ad for a medicine to make her boobs better". He will probably be like -- oh, okay.
Have fun on your trip -- sounds wonderful!
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B.S. answers from Atlanta on March 07, 2008
I would say that this is the perfect opportunity to explain cultural and societal differences to you son. Prior to going on the trip just let him know that some things are different there...and include other differences between the US and Europe - driving on opposite side from us, styles of the buildings, government styles, how there are statues and monuments throughout the cities, that the McDonalds there is a little different, food in general,and how they view nudity. It can be an ongoing conversation as you prepare for the trip. Just be sure that you are calm about it and he will be also. Then, when you are there and a questions arises you can refer to your conversations you had at home. You may want to still point out that even though they view nudity different that private parts are still not to be touched by others so there is no confusions on safety. This may help ease his anxiety in changing in the locker room also. I hope this helps. Enjoy your trip! Such an awesome opportunity for him to learn about the world!
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S.T. answers from Atlanta on March 07, 2008
I was stationed in Europe twice and, while there is a certain amount of nudity, it was tasteful and not at all pornographic as you describe. I'm sure that what you saw is the exception to the general "nudity" rule as most Europeans treat the subject of nudity with respect. Never were their beliefs forced upon me. The simple matter is our cultures blended perfectly because we showed each other the utmost respect for individual beliefs. The human body has been revered by civilizations for centuries through their artwork, statues and many other creative venues. I totally appreciate it.
Your son won't make any big deal of it if you don't. He's 5 and is innocent to the "viewpoints" of nudity. If he asks, let him know that their culture looks at nudity differently and he is to treat other people's cultures with respect. Leave it at that unless he persues it.
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D.P. answers from Atlanta on March 08, 2008
I've lived in Europe and have seen nudity without it being pornography. I think therein lies the difference.
By five, your son's plenty able to understand a simple "Well, in some parts of the world, people aren't as private about their private areas. The rules in Europe are a little different than the rules in the US." And remind him that he never has to show off more of his body than he's comfortable with. -- and that staring is still rude...
Nudity in and of itself is not a bad thing. Bodies are bodies -- they are not inherently bad. Really, they are quite amazing and beautiful things. It's the associations we make that are bad. Somehow, in the US, naked is dirty. It's funny that our society is still so affected by the Puritans, isn't it?
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