Back-to-school means new clothes. We’ve had previous conversations here and here about how the clothing and toy industries sexualize kids. It’s hard for parents to push back against billion dollar corporations who couldn’t care less about your standards for appropriate attire for your children.
But you have to shop, so you head to the store armed with your standards, but you can’t find anything you feel good about purchasing. To make things dicier, your child loves the clothes you despise.
That’s this mom’s problem:
How do I talk to my 12 year old daughter about how the way she dresses? She has a very “womanly” body and could easily pass for 18! She’s proud of the way she looks and I am delighted she is comfortable with her body. I don’t want to ruin that by saying the wrong thing, but I also do not want her to continue dressing in a way that seems to me to be provocative. She may be teased, she may get “hit-on” by a MAN! I want to protect her and at the same time, foster her confidence in herself.
Please help me with the right words. Thanks! – In a bind
Dear In a bind,
It’s great your daughter feels so comfortable in her body. May her self-confidence continue throughout her life time!
I’ll assume you pay for her clothes. If you aren’t comfortable with her choices you have veto power. Avoid heated conversations in the store. Talk about it before your next shopping trip or before handing over money to her for purchasing clothes.
You might say something like this: “Sweetheart, I love how confident you are about your body. Many girls don’t feel so comfortable in their own skin as you do. But you need a reality check. We live in a society where men (and other girls and women) judge you based on how you dress.
It isn’t fair to make assumptions about people because of how they look or dress, but fair or unfair, it is part of the reality of growing up as a girl.
I’m your mom and my job is to keep you safe and to educate you about the messages your clothing choices might be sending, without your knowing it. Let’s talk about this.”
Stay calm and keep your voice neutral and respectful and you could open up a very positive ongoing conversation with your daughter.
I hope this helps.
P.S. I reached out to my wise friend and fellow educator, Iréné Celcer for added input on your dilemma. Here are her three tips and thoughts.
1) Engage her in a conversation vs a lecture. Find out her thoughts, feelings and ideas on the topic. (See the paragraph below for a way to start.)
2) This conversation is not a ONE TIME thing. It will develop ebb and turn and change. And it may be the one area that she choses to drive you crazy with. Be smart and chose your battles.
3) No matter how she looks on the outside, she is still only 12 years old. And you are and should be the one who approves the clothing. You hold that wallet.
Here’s what you might say: “Society asks young women to dress in a certain way and to feel comfortable, but when they do, they are often viewed as sluts. Young boys or men can be rude and insensitive. They can start hurtful rumors. It is unfair and it is not your fault. I love you, but I will not let you chose whatever you like to wear. Why? Because some clothes send a signal you may not intend to send. People will look at what you’re wearing and interpret the signals. Even if those signals are not at all what’s on your mind, people may react to those signals as if they were the truth. Being dressed in a certain way makes people think certain thoughts. And thoughts lead to actions that could put you in harm’s way.”