Teens in Provocative Dress

Teens aren't equipped to deal with the attention and sexual pressure from boys that their sexual dress invites.
My 13-year-old daughter's body has matured nicely and certain clothes look different on her than they do on other young teens. She's a very good girl, but adults -- not kids -- says she's bad because she wears short shorts or tank tops that show cleavage. I've always taught my daughter not to worry what others think of her. How should I respond to this?
While I support your teaching your daughter not to judge people based on appearances, I'm also aware that it's not healthy for teens to present themselves as sexual objects. It's not appropriate for a 13-year-old girl to be wearing tops that show cleavage, regardless of what you see on television. Teenage girls are dressing more sexually and they're starting much younger, but they're not emotionally or socially equipped to deal with the attention and sexual pressure from boys that their style invites. It's not "cute" to see 13-year-olds looking like street hookers and parents shouldn't encourage this cultural turn.

An open relationship with your teenage daughter is great and I hope that it continues throughout her childhood. I suggest that you think seriously about how you want your daughter to think of herself and to present herself, as it applies to her healthy sexual and moral development.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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