A Social Butterfly?

My 13 year old daughter is obsessed with her looks and what boys think of her. After all these years of sharing moral values and focusing on her inner strength, I am mortified that she has become so shallow! Any advice?

Nature has its own timing, and 13 sounds just about right for this to happen. If your daughter has actually developed her own moral values and inner strength, these qualities will serve her well in the difficult transition through puberty and adolescence.

She is not being shallow, she is just exploring a new area of her development. It is perfectly natural and healthy for young people at puberty to begin to explore their attractiveness to the opposite sex. After all, they will need to select a mate, and hope to attract someone with some admirable qualities. The selection process takes a long time, and begins with working on becoming attractive.

Yes, inner beauty is very important but, let’s face it, guys are initially attracted by physical appearance. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a girl wanting to look pretty in order to attract guys. And looking attractive, like other skills, has to be learned and practiced. So does interacting with her peers, both male and female. Lots of mistakes are made in the early stages of learning these skills. But they are important skills to be learned, and adolescence is the time when kids begin practicing these skills.

If your daughter has developed deep inner values, these will protect her (in the long run) from becoming nothing more than a social butterfly. She will be able to set to rest any insecurity about her attractiveness and concentrate on the deeper qualities in herself and in those she interacts with. But first she has to master some of the basic skills of interacting with the opposite sex as something more than enemies or rivals. Give her the freedom to do so, and enjoy her enjoyment of herself as a sexual being (I don’t mean having sex, just being sexually attractive).

This might be the time to teach her a little about the visual nature of male sexuality, so that she can make informed choices about how she dresses and how much skin she feels comfortable showing. It might also be a time to check in with other parents to make sure she doesn’t attend parties or other situations where parents are absent and drugs or alcohol flow freely. She’s too young to navigate those situations. But you can perhaps discuss the dangers, with examples from your own adolescence, so that as she grows older she can learn to be part of her peer group without getting herself into any real danger. Talk openly about the mistakes you made as a teen. But don’t lock her in the closet she needs to interact with her peers, male and female, so that she can develop the social skills she needs at this stage of her life. Encourage her to apply her own values to the situations she encounters. It’s almost time for her to enter a whole new social arena, and you will need to let her go into it, forewarned and encouraged.

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