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Miriam Stoppards problem page: Is my 12 year old ready for boys?

LETTER OF THE DAY

MY daughter is 12 and has recently started to show an interest in boys.

In the last six months she's changed so dramatically - every day she seems to be becoming more of a woman.

Lately she's been trying to act a lot older. She's started wearing make-up and has become extremely fussy about having designer-label clothes - I must add, to my annoyance.

Then I found out, through a neighbour, that she's been hanging around with a 15-year-old boy. I confronted her with this and she just shrugged it off.

I told her that it's not worth chasing after boys, they're more trouble than they're worth. But I think it's falling on deaf ears.

She's a bit young to be getting into all that stuff, don't you think? I would like your advice on this matter.

YOUR daughter isn't at all unusual. Girls are growing up extremely fast these days.

Their periods often start even before they move on to secondary school and inevitably their hormones begin to kick-start an interest in boys.

I realise you're frightened about her burgeoning sexuality, but there's really nothing you can do to stop her biological clock. It'll make life a lot easier if you can accept she's becoming a woman, otherwise I see it becoming a real battleground.

Children quickly sense anxiety and, if she's looking for some way to annoy or shock you, it won't take her long to discover that her interest in boys is an effective means of provocation.

If you can encourage her to confide in you without fear of condemnation or reprisal, this will allow you the scope to protect her from herself and other people.

Even if you're too embarrassed to talk to her about sex, make sure she has access to decent sex books.

You could get one I've written, SEX ED, from the library for her. At the very least, she should know about contraception and where to seek contraceptive advice.

This isn't tantamount to giving her permission to go ahead. It simply means if she did get carried away, and believe me the nicest girls do, there's no risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

She should also be aware of the risks of catching a sexually-transmitted disease, which are increased with casual sex.

In other words, you should concentrate on giving her proper facts rather than on what a terrible thing it is to chase boys at her age.

It's understandable you want to wrap her in cotton wool, but she won't thank you for it and it might harm her emotional development.

If it's any comfort, most girls have romantic notions about relationships and the sex drive seems to develop more slowly in them and to take longer to become genitally focused.

It's very much a case of being in love with the idea of being in love. That's why so many of them paper the walls with pictures of their favourite male pop and soap stars.

Remember that your daughter's going through a learning process just as much as you are, and trying to work things out and make her own decisions. If you say "don't do it because I say so" this is unlikely to cut any ice.

"Don't do it yet" is probably a better approach because it allows you to express your misgivings and talk about the dangers without making her think she's being treated like a little girl.

Your aim should be to give her the confidence to recognise for herself that she'll be losing nothing if she waits until she's older to have a boyfriend.

Pal's putting me off the scent

WHAT'S your view about aromatherapy? A friend who's a big advocate gave me an aromatherapy kit for my birthday.

She says essential oils are a great pick-me-up.

When she asked me if I was now feeling like a new woman, I lied and said they were wonderful.

The truth is my skin can be a bit sensitive and I'm worried these oils will bring me out in a rash.

Spurred on by my enthusiasm, she now wants us to have a whole body massage at our local health club and I don't know how I can get out of it.

AROMATHERAPY is often described as the ultimate in gentle medicine. It has its roots in the ancient use of aromatic herbs in Egypt, India, Greece and the Arab world.

Essential oils obtained from plants, roots, leaves, fruit and flowers have been shown to have powerful psychological effects.

In most cases, aromatherapy can be safely used as a self-help treatment in the home provided the following guidelines are followed:

USE the purest oils available from reputable suppliers.

ESSENTIAL oils are highly concentrated. When placed on the skin they are nearly always diluted with what's known as a carrier oil (sunflower, safflower or almond are suitable) or an emulsified oil and water lotion.

When making up a dilution, add the required drops of oil to the carrier oil or lotion and shake well.

IF you have sensitive skin, it is wise to test a little of the diluted essential oil on a small area of your skin before proceeding with treatment AVOID contact with the eyes: Always close your eyes when inhaling essential oil. If you do get a bad reaction, you'll have to come clean and tell the truth.

Otherwise I think that you'll find it's a great way to pamper yourself.

We fear for baby

WE'VE just become the proud grandparents of a baby girl.

Our daughter had been trying for over 20 years to become pregnant, so you can imagine how much this baby already means to us.

She is beautiful with big blue eyes and blonde hair and is the spitting image of her mum when she was born.

Although she looks perfect, the doctor has just examined her and found she has a dislocated hip. We've been told to wait and see what happens. Could she be disabled for life?

OH no, please stop worrying. Your granddaughter has a congenital dislocation of the hip where the ball of the thighbone fails to fit into the socket of the pelvic bone. The cause isn't known but it's more common in babies born by breech delivery.

In most cases the condition soon corrects itself. If it isn't detected in infancy, dislocation may cause a limp when a baby's learning to walk.

Doctors may decide to apply some light splints to the thigh to manoeuvre the ball of the joint into the socket and keep it in position. The splints will have to be worn for two to four months and usually help to correct the problem.

As the disorder has been detected so soon and there's unlikely to be a delay for treatment, you can be confident your granddaughter will walk normally and there'll be no after-affects.

Holidays are just a dream

I'M a single parent and, like many people in my position, it's a struggle to make ends meet. I have two girls and do my best to make sure they get the same treats as their friends.

The one thing I've never been able to do is take them away on holiday. We live in a big city and my youngest keeps pestering me to take her to the seaside.

It's too far to go for a day and I'm wondering if you can tell me if there's any way we can have a summer break without it costing an arm and a leg?

A CHANGE of scenery does us all good, physically and mentally, and I'm sure even a few days at the seaside would give you all a boost.

I understand only too well that planning a holiday's difficult for someone on a limited income.

However, I may have some good news. National Council For One Parent Families has produced a Holidays 2000 guide which is free to lone parents.

It's packed with ideas to help plan a summer break. There are many useful suggestions on how to find cheap accommodation and house swaps.

Money will obviously be the biggest problem and there are various charities and trusts listed which may provide financial assistance.

For a copy of the guide, call freephone 0800-018 5026. Incidentally, National Council For One Parent Families publish a wide variety of publications on issues affecting people raising children alone.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 8, 2000
Words:1395
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