Happy Halloween!

Well, not quite but I won’t be posting again until after the epic night of candy and adorable babies dressed as bumblebees has passed.

I wonder what will become of halloween this year? Will there still be costume parades? Will candy still be handed out? (Who will I steal candy from if the kids don’t get any???) Will we stay in our houses safe from the scariest thing of all – this virus?

It’s uncertain times.

Speaking of uncertainty, have you seen what your daughter wants to dress as this Halloween? Have you seen the options available to her?

Before you say, “thank goodness Halloween is cancelled so I don’t have to tell her no”, let’s have a chat about girls, dressing up, and the sexualized goldfish costume she has selected for this year’s festivities.

(yes, sexy goldfish are a thing…just be thankful she didn’t pick the corn on the cob…)

So what do you do when your tween or teen shows up in her party attire and your first thought is “where is the rest of it?”

Costumes have gotten smaller and skimpier each year it seems (have the makers of costumes run out of money for fabric? Do they not live in Canada and cooler climates? Should we start a charity to fund warm, fuzzy poler bear costumes that are practical and comfortable?)

I remember the days where I would get dressed up only to have a full snowsuit put on over my costume to keep toasty.

(Now I just wear my giraffe onesie as daily attire, but that’s another story).

Let her dress sexy or not? That is the question

The experts are completely divided! There are many people (parents, scholars, teachers, clergy, researchers, coaches, therapists) who would say full stop that young girls shouldn’t be allowed to dress a certain way. Their perspective is that she may be gawked at, or have comments made about her that are beyond her comprehension (depending on her age). Many parents would worry about her becoming exploited because she is so exposed.

Other experts (again parents, scholars, teachers, clergy, researchers, coaches, therapists) would remind parents that being exploited has nothing to do with what a girl wears, that she would do well to learn for herself what it is like going into the world completely or partially revealed, and that having the freedom to make personal choices may do more for her in the long run than simply covering up.

My job is not to tell you what camp to align yourself with, but rather help you think about what is important to you and why so that you can make the choice that feels best for you. Asking her to change or alter her outfit, or allowing her to explore and experience, will be a personal parenting decision.

A few things to consider:

1) The temperature
2) How comfortable she feels
3) Why she wants to wear that outfit
4) Why you don’t want her to wear that outfit
5) How much of a fight this is going to create if you veto her choice
6) Her age

I’m guessing you found the order of these requirements a bit curious and a few things on this list completely irrelevant…

Let’s examine further: It is genuinely unsafe to let anyone out in the world in an outfit that is not equipped to keep them at a healthy temperature. It is 100% reasonable to say you would like her to dress warmer and explain the health risks of hypothermia and frostbite. Not to mention just how unpleasant the night could be if not bundled. This has nothing to do with shame, it is putting her basic human needs first. She will enjoy the night more if she is comfortable.

Next, this is a great opportunity for a little connection conversation: Remember at the webinar we talked about the importance of remaining curious first. What does she love about that costume? What is she hoping it will make her feel? How is she hoping others will react? Before you make any decisions, it would be useful to know what her motivation is. If she wants to impress a boy, than rather than saying “no”, you may use this as an opportunity to help her develop healthy relationship boundaries that involve interacting with boys in a way that make her feel seen as a whole person…and not just…seen, you know…

It is A-OK to express your concerns to her. Without shame. You have every right to say “I’m worried” or “I’m not used to seeing you so exposed and it makes my mind race with all these different thoughts…would you mind letting me express them and then we can talk about what to do so we both feel good?” Bonus, this will not only stave of an epic battle which will more likely than not make her want to wear the outfit just to spite you…it will also give her a teachable moment while still showing her that you trust and respect her

Finally, how old is she? In a way this is a trick question. Because it doesn’t matter how old she is, the above steps still apply. No matter her age, she had reasons, you had concerns, and you want to come together to get clarity on each others perspective. The only difference is you will have a lot more success telling an 8 to 10 year old a sweater is a requirement for going out in cold weather than you will an older teen…

The question comes down to what are your specific fears? What are you worried may happen if she wears that outfit? And how can you help prepare her to stay strong, safe, and still feel respected and empowered by her choices?

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of this controversial and contentious topic! Stay tuned because we are going to dive waaayyyy deeper into this in the coming month. You won’t want to miss out.