My daughter is concerned about all the dark hair she has on her arms and legs. She is adopted and the only one in the family with dark hairs, it’s also not common in her peer group. She is only 8 and is already worried about it. Please help me help her.
This sounds like a sit down, body talk time. It isn’t uncommon for girls her age to experience pre-pubescent changes. Explain puberty to her. Be transparent and honest. Tell her about an experience you had during this time. Normalize and validate her feelings. You may want to consider giving her this book: The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls by Valorie Schaefer. It’s for girls her age and breaks down everything that is about to happen to her. Give her the chance to read it and maybe go out for a special mother/daughter date to discuss.
This isn’t about her actual body hair; it’s about being different. If all of her family and friends had dark arm hair, I doubt this would be a concern. Dig underneath the surface and ask her specifically what she is worried about. Give her time to think about it. Is her concern coming solely from the fact her body hair is dark and nobody else’s is (yet…)? She may be worried her friends are going to make fun of her, or maybe they already have. Or, perhaps her peer group didn’t actually make fun of her, but pointed out the difference. Again, dig.
Help her come up with a one-liner or quip to respond if somebody says something unkind. Perhaps something along the lines of: “So what? This is just the color of my hair and I’m cool with it.” And tell her to quickly change the subject. Also, in my experience, it’s fairly simple for girls to role play scenarios with an adult they trust, and really difficult for them to courageously speak their truth in front of peers. Give her suggestions, but ultimately empower her to decide what she wants to do about it if the issue is stemming from peer comments or cruelty.
Finally, I wrote this in last month’s blog, and I’ll probably write it again, but I believe it’s critical to help children continually experience body diversity in a positive way. Body hair is notoriously photoshopped out of magazines which constricts the already constricted societal definition of beauty. Go sit outside in a crowded area and observe the different body shapes, sizes, colors, clothes, noses, eyebrows, leg length and hair – you get it. Talk about how boring everything would be if we all looked alike. Everyone has unique beauty, both inside and out. Help her embrace that notion by pointing out reality.
Julia V. Taylor is a school counselor and Ph.D. Candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. She is author of The Body Image Workbook for Teens, The Bullying Workbook for Teens, Salvaging Sisterhood, G.I.R.L.S: Group Counseling Activities for Enhancing Social and Emotional Development, and a children’s book, Perfectly You. She can be reached at www.juliavtaylor.com
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