Help! My 9-Year-Old Wants to Dress Sexy
Bare legs and navels may look fine on stage. But is that the right look for a 9-year-old girl?
Most parents say no, but many kids find it hard to agree. With so many mall shops offering sexy styles for the youngest girls, some parents wonder whether their daughters are risking sexual harassment for the sake of fashion.
Sexuality is a serious issue, says Heather Johnston Nicholson, Ph.D., director of research at Girls Incorporated, a national nonprofit youth organization. "Primarily, girls aren't dressing that way to attract men, but to please each other. It's not fair to make girls responsible for the actions of boys and men -- but safety is a vital issue."
How can you approach this? Tell your girls, "'You're sending messages you may not be aware of. Let's talk about when and where it's safe to be trendy and uncovered, and where it's unsafe or inappropriate,'" Dr. Nicholson says.
Much of the trend toward sexy clothing for the youngest girls starts with the media. From music videos to fashion magazines to fashion sites on the Web, girls are barraged with images of ultra-thin models in ultra-skimpy outfits. One key to fighting media messages, says Dr. Nicholson, is helping your daughter question the messages she's getting.
"By the time they're 10," says Dr. Nicholson, "girls are ready to be treated with respect, and to be included in the process. They're ready to take on leadership, make change and do things."
Then, encourage your daughter and her friends to take action. Search the mall or the Web together to find retailers and designers whose styles match your daughter's taste and budget.
"Girls can critique the dress code at school, decide what they really want to look like, maybe even find trendsetters other than [Hollywood stars] who they think look attractive - and find new trendsetters or set trends themselves," Dr. Nicholson says.