Are your daughters starting to talk about what they’ll be for Halloween this year?
If Yes, I have a straightforward piece of advice. Stop and bring a thoughtful, adult perspective to the discussion.
Bottom line, tweens and teens need to be empowered not to wear costumes that sexualize them before it’s developmentally appropriate.
It won’t be easy.
The trick will be to deftly navigate today’s marketplace.
Sad to say, non-sexualized choices for girls, especially teens, are limited. Most costume shops that start popping up in early September mostly stock whore-ified female versions of male costumes.
There’s the police officer…and his sexy counterpart (what female cop doesn't wear a mini skirt and fishnets these days?) The fire fighter…and his sexy counterpart. The ghoul, the chef, the butler, the skeleton, the devil, the doctor, the fill-in-the-blank…and his sexy counterpart. You get the idea.
I can almost hear your daughter’s argument: “But it’s what everyone else is wearing!”
That may be true, but this is the time to confirm your values and firmly weigh in on the decision of what your daughter can wear. When children are allowed to wear sexy clothing – costumed or everyday – not only do others see and treat them as sexual creatures… they see themselves that way as well. And often, far earlier than they are emotionally or developmentally aware enough to deal with the consequences.
Be sensitive to your daughters’ desire to fit in, and by all means, don’t shame her for wanting to wear a sexy costume. Take this opportunity to speak up about the appropriateness of her choices. I’m certainly not advocating we blame the victim, but it’s important to point out to our daughters the message that certain types of clothing send – whether wittingly or not. It is also important that our daughters feel safe and comfortable in the choices that are made available to them.
A friend asked me a great question on this topic the other day. “At what age should I let my daughter make her own decisions about the clothes she wears?” My response? Parents should probably continue checking in as long as the child lives at home. Discussions about how we present ourselves is really a discussion about the values we hold as parents and that we’re trying to instill in our children.
When we allow our young daughters to leave our homes dressed as mini adult women, we forfeit our right to be aghast when people react to them as such in the outside world.
It’s a tough stance, but our daughters are worth it.