Dear Barb – Balance Guidance with Independence

Dear Barb:

I am a single mother of a 12-year-old daughter. We have always been really close, until recently. Melissa has changed so much over the last few months. She is hanging around with a new crowd of girls that I don’t approve of. She has always been rather modest in her dress but now she is dressing suggestively and attracting quite a bit of attention from boys.

I know she is growing up, but She’s only 12. I don’t feel comfortable allowing my 12-year-old to dress like a 16-year-old. Is it just me or are girls growing up a lot quicker these days?


Hi, Susan. I believe you are right, girls and boys are growing up a lot quicker. In fact, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal the 12- to 14-year-olds of yesterday are the 10- to 12-year-olds of today. The differences are not only evident in the way 12-year-olds are dressing, but also in their attitudes and behaviour. They are taking on more of the risky behaviours associated with teenagers, including becoming sexually active at a much younger age.

This is likely due to their exposure to TV, movies, videos, and the Internet. Unfortunately there is not a lot we can do about this, as they are an ever-growing money-making industry.

As parents, I suppose the only thing we can do is try our best to educate our children and prepare them for what they may be encountering in the real world. For example, if a 12-year-old is going to dress as a 16-year-old, she needs to know what kind of attention she is going to attract. Sixteen to 18-year-old boys will be attracted to her and, as I’m sure you know, they have a much different mindset than 12- or 13-year-old boys.

You are in a difficult position. If you come on too strong and try to restrict her she will only rebel and move in the exact direction you don’t want her to. I would suggest you try to find a happy medium. Give her a bit of freedom, but perhaps limit where she can go. You don’t want her going to places where she will be confronted with older boys. I suspect she may be trying to express her independence even as she really does want guidelines and structure, though she may never admit it. Thanks again for the great question, Susan.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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