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Family Resources Guide

A resource for caregivers with children under twelve. 


What can you do if your children see nudity or sex in art? 

Art museums can be the very first place children encounter an image of a naked body. That’s not a bad thing. Museums are places for learning, and the art in museums was chosen because it is meaningful and important. Still, it can be challenging. Children need to reach a level of maturity and development to be able to understand certain kinds of nudity—especially nudity involving sex, vulgarity, or violence.  

Children in your care may not be ready to experience those kinds of artworks. If this museum is exhibiting a work like that and you encounter it together, what can you do?  

  • Try not to overreact. Allow them to get their giggles out. It is a natural way to express discomfort and awkwardness. A big reaction from you can create more confusion—and more interest. Use positive or neutral words like “unexpected” instead of “bad,” and invite them to move on. 
  • Timing is crucial. Wait for a calm moment to talk with your child about what they saw. As your child’s first and primary teacher, it is important for you to address their questions or feelings. 
  • Encourage expression. Allow them to express their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgement. It will help them to process and help you to understand their needs. Be the person they trust with questions about bodies and sexuality. 
  • Provide answers. It is developmentally appropriate for children to express curiosity about bodies and body parts. Keep your responses to their questions simple and check for understanding. Use matter-of-fact language for reproductive body parts and their functions: vagina, vulva, penis, testicles, butt, anus. 
  • Be clear about safety. Make what is okay clear and make what is not okay clear. Emphasize that at their age, it is not okay for someone to ask them to be naked, or for an older person to be naked around them, except for a trusted adult who has permission to wash them or provide medical care. Remind them that they can ask a caregiver, medical provider, or other trusted adults if they have a question or concern about their body or their boundaries.

Children’s Frequently Asked Questions

Why is that person naked? 

“Artists make art to create thoughts and feelings in viewers. People have lots of thoughts and feelings about naked people—that is why artists choose to include them in art sometimes. 

Do you have any questions about the body in this artwork? Do you have questions about your body?” 

What are those people doing?  

You can be honest and still decide how much detail your child is ready for. One option: “Those people are having sex. Sex is a private thing that adults do when they want to be close with each other. It is not something kids do. If you have other questions about sex, you can always ask me.”  

That’s gross! Are they allowed to do that?  

“That is surprising! Adults can touch each other privately if they have consent. Consent means asking for permission and respecting the answer. You’re the boss of your body, including your eyes, so you get to choose what to focus on at the museum. Should we find something different to look at?” 

Additional Resources

The Every Body Book teaches children ages 8–12 about sex, gender, and relationships in a way that is inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 

Amaze Jr. is an online resource that publishes age-appropriate content, including fun videos and other resources, that helps parents and children engage in conversations around bodies, relationships, and sex. 

Sex Positive Families is an organization that provides courses, workshops, and other educational resources that help families raise sexually healthy children. 

Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center provides workbooks for parents and caregivers on best practices for the primary prevention of child sexual abuse. 

Planned Parenthood provides in-depth resources for teaching young children about their bodies, safety, reproduction, and sexuality.