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As a mother of two little girls - my eldest 6, my stomach turns and my eyes are filled with tears as I watch a young tween ask an audience of internet crooners, "Am I ugly?", "Am I fat". I am shocked - or not? Perhaps I remember all too well the insecurities of the tween/teen years. If your skirt is too long, you are a "loser", "nerd"; if your skirt is too short, you are a "sleaze", "tramp". If you don't wear make up or if you wear too much of it; if your hair is a certain way (I remember dreading going to school with a new hairdo!), if you wear certain shoes/boots, if you do your jacket up all the way….do you remember? I wish we could teach our children what we know now - those things don’t matter. If only they could see how wonderful they are, how beautiful inside and out, how funny, how sensitive, how smart, how talented. Yes, we all have to "go through it", however, maybe as parents we can make it easier for them. I remember being told how "the High School years are the best years of your life". Well, if you are feeling out of place and insecure - that is not a very encouraging outlook for the future!
Perhaps as Psychologist Dr. Diana Kirschner points out, we can make sure our children feel how loved they are - as they are. Focus on what they are good at and praise them often for it. Focus on both outer and inner beauty. This will help raise their self esteem. I also believe we need to make sure they enjoy being their age. They want to get older, they want to do what older kids get to do - but lets try our damnedest to have them act their age.
This brings about the question - "How do we teach them proper grooming and not go too far?" We want our kids to learn proper hygiene and to take care of their face and body. We teach healthy eating, proper bathing, the routine of washing our face and brushing our teeth. What do we do when "unwanted hair" pops up? Or wanting to wear make up? When is it okay? I have clients ask me all the time, "What age is a good age to start laser for my daughter?". My answers vary. I do agree that hair removal treatment should start before the child has to worry about feeling uncomfortable (especially with upper lip and eye brow hair). Personal grooming is a tricky topic with young girls. I tell most moms to wait until it bothers the child. Even then if it is not too bad, bleaching the hair for a year or two can buy some time. The youngest girl I've ever treated for an upper lip was a 9 year old, who had very dark hair and a lot of it. Her and her mom felt that she really did need the treatment.
My two cents - Keep the "grooming" to the basics for as long as possible. Kids need to be kids. Kids need to learn that real friends love you for who you are. Real friends do not make fun. If they do, they are not worth being friends with. Move on to someone who likes to have fun and not "make fun". If someone calls your child ugly or fat - she/he needs to have the confidence to turn away and find another friend - a real one. (And you need to have the strength to not go and throttle that person!)