Tween Wants Sexy Halloween Costume

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Holidays, Extreme Childhood, Fashion, Tween Culture, Expert Advice: Home Base

Dear AdviceMama:

My daughter is 10 years old and wants to be a fair maiden for Halloween. She fell in love with a costume in a catalog two months ago and insists it was meant for her. She's dreamt about it, talked about it and has even shown it to all her friends.

The problem is, her dad feels it's too sexy and is refusing to buy it. It's also expensive, and we really can't afford it.

She is heartbroken and has been having fits, tantrums and doing everything under the sun to get us to give in. What should we do?

Unhappy at Halloween

Dear Unhappy at Halloween,

Mother Nature was very wise in designing children. Their size (small) and stature (dependent) ensure that they are bound to experience frustration on a daily basis. What better way to master a skill than to get lots of practice?

As painful as it is to watch our children suffer when they can't have what they want, if we want them to grow up to be happy, resilient adults, we need to help them manage their feelings when life doesn't go their way.

There are only two outcomes to frustration. One is adaptation and the other is aggression.When children encounter road blocks to their wishes and desires, they will either find a way to accept the difficult truth that they aren't getting what they want, or they'll become aggressive, as your daughter is doing. The solution is not to simply give in, although I do talk about times when you might reconsider your position. But generally speaking, if you and your husband feel the costume is too sexy and expensive, it's time to help your daughter move from denial, anger, bargaining and depression - the stages of grief -- to acceptance.

Give your child what I call an "Act One" and let her know you understand how unhappy, or angry she is. Resist the urge to interrupt her with justifications for your position or ideas for other costumes; rather, encourage her by saying, "Tell me more."

If you don't hurry the conversation, you'll give her time to feel and dismantle her upset at its root: sadness. Help her find her tears. Comfort her with your loving care, without discussing the reasons for your decision.

If you've decided she can't have the costume, don't throw salt in the wound by repeatedly trying to convince her that your position makes sense. It doesn't, to her, and it doesn't have to. Your job here is to simply help your daughter navigate through the storm of her disappointment toward a sense of peace and acceptance.

Be strong, Mom, and no doubt your daughter will choose -- or create -- a costume that will make Halloween a success. In the end, candy is sweet, regardless of what you're wearing. But she'll have to discover that for herself!

Yours in parenting support,

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.