“I have hair down there and I really want to shave down there. Is it a good idea?”
“It’s embarrassing to be in a bathing suit cause some hairs stick out of the bottoms. Should I or shouldn’t I??”
“A lot of girls my age say it’s disgusting if you don’t shave down there.”
So go the comments that caught the attention of Debra Moffitt, editor at KidsHealth.org and founder of The Pink Locker Society, a series of tween-centric books and an accompanying blog.
“The question has started coming up more and more,” Moffitt says. “At first I was ignoring them, but girls would start chiming in on other parts of the (Pink Locker Society) blog that were unrelated. Someone would be talking about shaving their legs and someone else would ask, ‘Can I use Nair down there?’”
No. You can’t use Nair down there, girls.
And moms? Deep breaths. Like it or not, some girls as young as 11 and 12 are absorbing cultural expectations about their bodies, and a prevailing expectation in some circles is that they be hair-free. Blame air-brushed magazines. Or Kim Kardashian, who admits to starting bikini waxes at age 12 and told Us Magazine, ‘I’m like, obsessed with hair removal.’”
Just don’t blame your daughter.
“There might be a place for being upset at the culture,” Moffitt says. “But getting upset with our girls is not helpful. It’s not really their doing, and for you to freak out or be angry at them is counterproductive.”
Tackling the issue: Let’s say your daughter approaches you with a request to shave or otherwise remove her pubic hair. Before you start wondering What It All Means (Does she hate her body? Is she sexually active? Is she watching online porn?), take a moment to be grateful she turned to you.
“Worse is the idea of a kid having at it with a razor or some hair remover because someone told them they’re weird or gross or disgusting for having hair there,” Moffitt says, adding that however uncomfortable the topic, you need to discuss it.
Try to place the conversation in a personal grooming context, says child and adolescent psychologist D’Arcy Lyness.
“Every mom can probably think of different beauty trends or grooming trends or body decorating trends she has lived through,” Lyness says. “Certainly it may raise questions about whether she’s ashamed of her body or is thinking about having sex, but firing those questions out of your mouth is not going to be helpful.”
Expanding your focus: Whether you ultimately decide to help your daughter go hair-free or not will depend on your family’s particular values and boundaries. Regardless, you can use the question as an invitation to broach some delicate topics.
“It’s really a perfect opportunity to get closer to your daughter and open up a whole new level of conversation and guide her and help her to feel empowered to care for and respect her body,” Lyness says. “It’s a chance to have a conversation about body image and peer pressure and what we look for in friendships.”
Perhaps you answer her question with some questions of your own, Moffitt says.
“We often think we have to make our ruling clear right away, but it may be better to ask, ‘What do you think of that idea? Are some of your friends doing it? Why do you think that is?’” she suggests. “That sends two messages: One, I’m not going to order you to do this or that. And two: I’m interested in what you think.”
You can share your thoughts too.
“Don’t be opinionless,” Moffitt says. “You can help her understand the broader issues of beauty ideals changing through time and how trends take all these funny twists. But wherever possible, try not to come down so hard that you make her feel like she’s done something wrong.”
Your relationship, after all, is larger than this one topic.
“The hope,” Lyness says, “is your daughter walks away with the idea, ‘I can always go to my mom and learn something and get her perspective and she doesn’t judge me or put me down. She helps me think about things and I know I’m going to feel good when I leave the conversation.’
“Be her go-to person,” Lyness says. “Be her vote of confidence for loving her body and her inner self. That’s your goal.”
By HEIDI STEVENS