Having the Sex Talk: Is Your Tween Too Sexy Too Soon?
How to have the sex talk with your tween, plus how to handle 5 dilemmas on kids' sexuality
THE DILEMMA: My 9-year-old daughter wants to wear short skirts and midriff-baring tops to school, but I don't want her to dress like a teenager.
WHAT TO SAY: Your immediate reaction might be to nix the trashy outfits, but you're better off trying to figure out what would make your daughter happy. “If you say no, your child might learn to do things behind your back,” says Levin. “If you let her feel like she has a voice, you'll help her learn to live thoughtfully and responsibly.”
Ask your daughter why she wants to dress like this. If she says she's worried that her friends—or boys—won't like her if she doesn't, ask if her girlfriends have the same problem and what they do. Explain why you're concerned and sympathize about how hard it is to live up to these standards. Then try to compromise. Maybe she can wear a short-but-not-too-short skirt with her favorite sweater. In the meantime, try to get her interested in something other than clothes. Encourage her to participate in activities that will make her feel good about herself, such as gymnastics or the school play, and support her friendships with kids less concerned about appearances.
Annette Cavallone faced this situation recently when her 7-year-old daughter, Sara, wanted to tie up her shirt to expose her midriff at a soccer game. “I asked her why, and she said the other girls wear their shirts like that, and she wants to show her belly because she's skinny,” says the mother of three in Long Valley, NJ. “Sara thinks it's cool to look like that, but she doesn't understand what ‘sexy’ is. I said, ‘You're here to play soccer; this isn't a fashion show.’ And I mentioned that she wouldn't be comfortable playing soccer that way. I'm wondering, where are these girls going to go from here if they're dressing like teens now?”