• Dr. Luisa Bryce

Today's Tweens: Too sexy too fast


Kids these days seem to be growing up faster than ever. I’ve seen kindergarteners with iPhones and 10-year-old girls donning lipstick and eyeshadow in fourth grade classrooms. While today’s youth may look mature, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to act like young adults. Often times, children’s brains are ill-equipped to handle the grown-up situations that com along with wearing skimpy “fashionable” apparel or having internet access 24-7.


Tween girls are a population of particular concern, as scantily clad pop stars and provocative tween idols can pretty much wreck havoc on the fragile self-images of young girls. The topic is such a worry that the American Psychological Association (APA) developed a task force to report on the sexualization of girls. The task force found that the escalation of sexualized media images (such as Nicki Minaji’s wardrobe choices) is hurtful to girls’ self-image and healthy emotional and physical development. The APA published a video entitled “Girls Talk: The Sexualization of Girls,” to depict firsthand the experiences of six middle school girls.


The video focuses on the thoughts and reactions of images the middle school girls see in the media. They discuss “pretty versus sexy,” as well as what really makes someone beautiful. The girls also share messages received when dressing “sexy,” explaining this type of image makes one feel “powerful.” The goal of the video is to spread empowerment to tween girls and inform parents, teachers, and others supporting our nation’s young ladies. I watched it and was quite impressed.


So if your tween is saving her allowance for Victoria’s Secret and practicing her booty-popping dance moves in your living room with her friends, it may be cause for concern. Here are a few quick tips on how to talk to your tween without bringing on further rebellion:


1. ACKNOWLEDGE SHE’S GROWING UP

Validate the fact she’s no longer a little girl and promise not to treat her like one. Remind her that maturity comes with serious choices and responsibilities, so she’ll have to act like a young adult in order to be treated like one. Find a medium somewhere in-between full-on teenage privileges and elementary rewards (e.g. Saying “no” to a party at a teeny-bopper’s house whose parents you don’t know, but allowing your daughter to host a party herself).


2. TALK ABOUT SEX (When? Like, yesterday…)

I read a statistic the other day stating “9 out of 10 children age 8-16 have viewed pornography on the Internet and cite this as their main source for learning about sex.” No matter how hard you try to shield your kids from the raunchy info proliferating our digital world, they’re bound to see it sooner or later. So have the sex talk before middle school, which will ensure your kids are well equipped with facts and knowledge. For a good resource on how to talk to your tween about tough subjects, check out Talking to Tweens… Getting it Right Before it Gets Rocky with Your 8- to 12-year-old.


3. FOCUS ON INNER STRENGTHS

Praise and compliment your tween often. Her fragile self-esteem will benefit in the long-term, I promise. However, when complimenting your daughter, focus on characterological traits such as inner strength, courage, and thoughtfulness rather than outward appearances. Have a serious discussion about women role models (think Michelle Obama and Adele) and talk about why you value and look up to these women.


4.  PICK YOUR BATTLES

Remember tight-rolled jeans, snap bracelets, and six-inch high, teased bangs? I thought so. If it’s a harmless fashion trend, let it pass. Chances are it’ll be out of style before you’re done arguing about it.


Got a tip to share about how you navigate tweenager-hood? Let us know in the comments.

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