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I am concerned about some of my 14-year-old daughter's friends. They dress in a provocative way and I am concerned they are sexually active and don't know how to address the topic with my daughter without alienating her or sounding like I'm accusing her of something.


Joan MacMullen Replied: First, I would not assume that your daughter will have a negative response to your opening a conversation. A simple way to open is "Wow, styles for girls your age have changed a lot since I was young. Do you think people make judgements about others based on what they wear? The conversation will get started and as long as you stay open and non-judgemental, I think your daughter will welcome your opinions and input. As an eighth grade teacher, I see styles that are extrememly provocative, but do not necessarily indicate inappropriate behavior. Kids are responding to what they see on TV and in the movies, These are the clothes that are shown in catalogs and in stores. I think keeping an open dialog about how we feel about the various styles will help to find an acceptable middle ground with regard to how our teens dress.
Posted On 2009-09-11 07:57:20
Amy and Charles Miron Replied: You're right to be concerned about your daughter's feelings. Your goal, we're sure, is to open up conversation, not close it down. We'd suggest that at a time when the relationship between you and your daughter is warm and close, start a conversation with something positive. For example, how beautifully she's navigated the difficult waters of this year at school; how proud you are of how she's handled (fill in the blank). Explain to her that as her parent who loves her, it's your job to point out any potential problem that you may see. Then use a recent shopping trip to the Mall or an advertisement you saw somewhere as the lead into your conversation. Tell her you're concerned about some of the clothing styles that were being displayed; this way you avoid referring specifically to the way any of her friends dress. Share with her why you don't like the clothing styles and why you feel that way. Perhaps it's because you feel these styles seem to be sexually advertising and /or showing off in order to attract attention from boys. Tell her how proud you are of her for being more self assured so that she doesn't need other people's attention to feel good about herself. You might say, "You seem to have more ______(fill in the blank with whatever you believe your daughter is showing...common sense, conservative values, respect for herself and her body, etc.). Ask your daughter what she thinks about today's clothing styles. How does she feel about kids flaunting their body parts as well as their sexual activity? Listen to your daughter. If you hear something that you don't agree with, try to remain calm and ask her to clarify what she means. Then explain that you don't agree and why. You might want to explain that feeling good about your body is a great thing. Sharing that with the immediate world may not be. We'd suggest that you reinforce the clothing styles your daughter wears when you agree with them. Tell her how happy you are with her choice in clothing. If the conversation is going well, this might be a great opportunity to expand the discussion to your values about sexuality. It's really important to explain to your daughter what your values are and why you hold them. It's equally important to be very specific about what you feel is appropriate behavior and what is not and why. You might want to end with telling your daughter that you'd like her to think long and hard about the things you've discussed with her. Explain that she is writing her personal history that she will be living with for the rest of her life. Tell her that you have faith that she'll make good choices for herself. During the discussion, be careful to watch your nonverbal behavior. If your tone of voice and body language is like wagging a finger in her face, you're likely to get a finger back…and it's not going to be a polite one. Reinforce the process of talking together even though you may disagree on content. That way, you've left the door open to further input, rather than pushing her away. And continue talking. Whenever possible, use other teachable moments from everyday life to initiate conversations. Lyrics to songs, TV shows, movie themes, behaviors of public figures are all good possibilities for initiating conversation and sharing your views and exploring hers. Make sure that you're listening as well as speaking with your daughter. Perhaps, in some areas, you'll have to agree to disagree. But if you've kept a calm loving atmosphere, shared the reasons behind your thoughts and listened as well as talked, you're much more likely to be pleased with your relationship and your daughter's choices in the long run.
Posted On 2009-07-28 22:33:31
Jim Taylor, Ph.D. Replied: Now is the time to establish a dialogue with your daughter about the challenges she will face in her high-school years (if you haven't already done so). Essential topics to be discussed include sex, drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure. The key is not to lecture or preach, but rather to ask questions, listen, and focus on her concerns. The chances are that she has many of the same concerns as you do. Also, if you haven't already done so, you need to have an open and direct "birds and bees" conversation with her, so if she decides to become sexually active (and the reality is that you can't stop her if she makes that choice), she is responsible about it. The key is a calm demeanor, empathy, unbiased information, and, most importantly, her perception that you only have her interests at heart.
Posted On 2009-07-27 12:10:17
Maggie Macaulay Replied: Absolute clarity is always helpful when venturing into a conversation with a teenager about clothing, friends, relationships…anything! Be clear on what you are requesting, how you feel, and - this is the big one - to whom does the problem belong. Your Request. Be clear on what you are requesting. Are you asking that your daughter find new friends? Are you looking to influence her friends about their style of clothing or activities? Do you want your daughter to be aware of the implications of dressing provocatively? What is the request you will be making in your conversation with your daughter? Is your purpose to simply express how you feel? From your question, I am not clear on your request or purpose. How You Feel. Be clear on how you feel. Explore all of your fears around this issue with a friend, professional or family member until you feel at ease. Your conversation with your daughter can then come from a place of love. Your conversation can shift from a potential lecture to one about your daughter taking good care of herself and being self-reliant. Whose Problem is It? Problems have owners, and the path of action is determined by who owns the problem. You can typically tell whose problem it is by who brings it up. Your daughter is not coming to you asking for assistance with her friends. Her friends are not asking for help with their wardrobe. You own this one. Does your sphere of influence include the way other children dress? Probably not. Your sphere of influence is with YOUR daughter. Be clear about your request, how you feel and on owning the problem. Your conversation can then be a dialogue - an exchange of ideas - rather than a monologue. You will deepen your relationship with your daughter and open the door for future conversations at this very important time in her development.
Posted On 2009-07-27 10:57:35
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