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Q. My 9-year-old suddenly has very dark hair on her legs. Other girls have noticed, and she wants to shave. I think she's too young, but I don't want her to be teased either. What should we do?
A. This is a classic rite of passage for both of you. And I know it's tempting to say, "No way! Talk to me when you're 14!" But there are two things to keep in mind. One, most girls your daughter's age have absorbed cultural messages that tell them there are things "wrong" with their body that require fixing. Two, kids need all the help they can get navigating peer pressure. So explain to your daughter what's happening with her body because she's probably worried she's the only one going through it. Then discuss the pros and cons of shaving. Pro: She doesn't get teased. Con: She changes herself to please others. Your job is to help her realize when these decisions come at the price of her personal authenticity. If after all that, she still wants to, I'd compromise by letting her bleach her hair, and at 12 I'd let her shave. In the meantime, keep using body image issues like this one to teach her about making thoughtful choices.
Originally published in the October 2008 issue of Family Circle magazine.