Q: My 10-year-old daughter is having thoughts about other girls. She says she's worried because she notices and admires other girls' figures. I know this is normal, but I'm not really sure how to say this to her. She seems to be obsessing about it. What's your advice?
A: You should tell her what you already know to be true: It's perfectly normal for a preteen girl to admire other girls' bodies. Point out to her that adult men admire other men's bodies, and adult women admire other women's bodies. Admiration and sexual attraction are two entirely different things.
It's also fairly normal for preteens to experience a moderate amount of obsessive thinking about one thing or another. Their tendency to worry about themselves probably has to do with changes going on in brain chemistry and cognitive abilities as well as related changes in self-concept. In that regard, it's important that you not make this a topic of frequent conversation. The more you talk with her about it, no matter how understanding and reassuring you are, the more obsessing she's likely to do. Say what you have to say, and then tell her something along these lines: "This is not something we need to keep talking about. In fact, the more we talk about it, the more you’re going to think about it, and the more you're going to worry about it. I've said all I have to say, so let's make an agreement that this is the last conversation we're going to have about this."
She's looking to you for indication of whether this is important. If you act like it's not worth talking about, she’ll eventually stop worrying about it — eventually being the operative word. At that point, because she’s a preteen, she'll probably start worrying about something else.
Q: My 5-year-old daughter loves to play with other kids her age, but she has not yet asked me to invite any of her school friends over for a play date. According to her teacher, she's a bit shy but plays well with the other girls in her class — and when the chance presents itself, she plays well with others in the neighborhood and elsewhere. Should I go ahead and arrange play dates or let her make the first move on that?
A: I have two somewhat opposing thoughts about this. On one hand, if she were interested enough in play dates, she would ask you to arrange them; on the other, maybe she doesn't know to ask or is a tad reluctant. Maybe she's afraid she'll be turned down.
Tell her that if she wants, you will arrange weekly play dates for her. If she agrees, do so until she feels comfortable enough to call and arrange them herself.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions at www.rosemond.com.