My name is Maria Albertsen and I am delighted to have been invited over by Helen to bring you a new feature on the blog here at KiddyCharts called ‘Thursday Thoughts’. The idea is we will give you our thoughts here regularly on some behaviour challenges for parents. I can be found blogging here, so pop along and see me if you would like more information about my services, or to contact me.
So who am I and what am I doing here?
Well, my background is in Children and Young People’s Counselling and Psychotherapy. I have a Bsc (hons) health studies, diploma in counselling and an MA in Counselling. I have worked with little ones right up to early 20s and a lot of parents too, so I am able to offer advice from both a parent’s and child or young person’s perspective.
I also have 2 boys of my own age 4 and 2 years and I think this often helps me to see where parents are coming from. I have encountered all issues in my work including: sexual health, bullying, bed wetting, acne, self-harm, depression, family relationship problems, fussy eaters, etc., so any issue is fine for me to tackle however big or small it may seem!
I am basically here for you, as parents, to use as you wish. Maybe you want to email me a direct question you would like advice on, or maybe you just want some general suggestions on improving a certain situation like how to respond to a teacher for example. Anything is fine! Just to let you know that I am a qualified counsellor/psychotherapist but this isn’t therapy as such, more an Agony Aunt Service that I’m providing but I will use my experience along the way.
Obviously anything you email to us is always kept 100% confidential, unless of course you tell us something big like someone is being harmed and then we may just need to make sure that person is OK. If you have any questions about that just drop me a line and I’ll happily get back to you.
Shaving at Seven – really?
This week, @Kiddycharts spotted a great blog post from Actually Mummy, and so I’ve been asked to talk about hairy legs, well a bit more than that really, a child who is 7 years old and already her self -concept and sense of who she is is being challenged. You can read the full article here.
OK, so if I was in my play therapy room and this child came in to see me, what would I think and what would I say to her?
My first thoughts would probably be to seem a little shocked that a child so young is asking to shave her legs but actually in today’s world she’s probably getting ready for puberty already which is getting earlier and earlier now, with children as young as 8 starting their periods, although the average age is 12 or 13. Puberty begins way before the first period and an effect of this is the growth of more obvious body hair.
Focus on the feelings of the child
My main concern would be that the child manages to process and deal with her feelings about this in the right way for her, to create a sense of herself as important but to also offer support and reassurance when needed. Not an easy task I know as it’s also important to remember she is still a child!
So it would be important firstly to create the space and time needed to express how she feels about the body hair herself, did she even notice it before people commented? Does she like it? Does she dislike it? Just for now it’s important to get her to focus on what SHE feels and not to allow the feelings created by the name calling to come into it. I know, of course, that this affects her and is the reason she has asking about shaving her legs, but focussing initially on how she feels encourages her to remain true to herself and actually begin to challenge what others are saying to her.
Should a seven year old really be worrying about her legs?
Already I am thinking “gosh how in-depth and serious to be with a 7 year old” and “really she should just be playing with a doll!” But it’s obviously, and in my opinion sadly, an issue for her! I would not do this directly though, just over general chit chat, asking questions like, ‘so do you like your legs?’ etc and just to try and gauge how she feels about them. That way you can help to improve her self-esteem too. So if she answers yes, then you can big that up for her, “course you do, you’ve got fabulous legs, just look at them” etc. and if she says no, then you can try and show her the positives about her body, how great she looks, etc. I know it may seem strange to some people to even focus on a 7 year old looking good and having nice legs but remember it is an issue for her and she wants to talk about it after broaching the subject. A way of doing this without talking too much is to maybe ask her to draw a picture of herself. Does she concentrate on the leg area or does that not come out of her unconscious? This would tell us if it is a surface issue for her or if it’s really getting to her, e.g. if she does not emphasise the legs then maybe it’s a surface issue, if she does emphasise the legs then maybe it’s really getting to her.
Ask her about her friends, do they have hairy legs? Does she like them any less for it? This can help to put the thoughts in the child’s mind into perspective, to externalise how people really see her and not the few people who say nasty things about her legs. She is then more likely to realise that actually these people’s opinions don’t really matter that much after all!
This may seem to some people unnecessary and too focused for a child but what it does is it tells the child that actually how she feels is very important. Someone has given her the space, just for her to talk about this. This alone can do wonders for just raising that self-esteem and maybe just enough for her to feel okay about her legs again.
Try and make it seem like its not a big deal
My personal opinion is not to make a big deal out of it, all this info can be gained by asking simple questions over a can of coke or a bag of chips with a few laughs included. I also think that maybe 7 years old is fine to get rid of body hair. If after talking she is still unhappy about it, then what’s so wrong with not putting that right?
Talk to her about how she will feel about her body looking and feeling different, and how she’ll feel when people notice her hair has gone. If she seems like it would make a difference to her happiness then maybe it is the right way to go.
I wouldn’t give a 7 year old a razor though! I think that’s too dangerous, I know as an adult I’ve had some nasty cuts and how painful that is. If you’re going to go down this route, you’ll want to do it in the least dramatic way as possible; think hair removal cream! This is probably the least intrusive way, maybe even just test a little area first, giving her a feeling of what it will be like.
The tricky thing is to get the balance right, to allow her to mature at her pace, after all it’s different for every child and to make sure she makes decisions for herself and not for other people. That way you’ll start her on the right track of having that all important self-esteem, and that’s what’s important here, what makes HER happy, not the views of everyone around her but how SHE feels…..and lots of hugs; hugs are always great!
And after all this, what’s the bet she’ll be onto something else in a week’s time and give us adults another mind blowing topic to think about!
What are your thoughts on this – we would love to hear them.
Please note, this is advice, and does not constitute medical opinion.
Friday 1st of April 2016
Its a surprising and weird article for me. Shaving at such an early age, i am fascinated by the ideas
Thursday 31st of May 2012
Thank you this was interesting to read. GG has always had hairy legs and forearms, so I know there would come a day when it bothered her. She has been aware of it for about a year (it tugs when we put suncream on her, and some of it broke away last summer and she liked that). She hasn't focussed on it before now, but as other children are starting to notice, it is becoming a concern of hers. She has always know that she can ask me to help with things, because we talk openly, and I'm so glad she asked me. I advised her to speak to one of the girls about how it makes her feel, she has had success with that before, but this time it made no difference. We have now spoken to her teacher, and I'm hoping that a circle time chat about "everybody's different" and respect for our friends will help stop the teasing. If after that she still dislikes it, I will let her remove it. It has definitely been helpful to point out the differences in some of her friends - glasses, braces, birthmarks, chubbiness - and also her attributes. She beamed last night when I talked about her gorgeous hair, her brilliant blue sparkly eyes, and her infectious smile, so she knows she is beautiful. But I know what I did when I was 10 with the same problem, and I would prefer to be a part of her decision and support it, than go off secretly with her Dad's razor, or try to spend her pocket money in the chemists. I had no idea our issue would kick off such a debate, but it has been really interesting and helpful, so thanks for featuring our story here.
Thursday 31st of May 2012
It is terrible the body image issues that children are having at such young ages. Do you think she is really upset about her legs or it was something she just wanted your opinion on? My 15 yr. old will pose questions and then the next minute is on to something else. I am the one left pondering & obsessing over the meaning & he has moved on to other topics! The advise about the depilatory cream is a good one-that stuff smells awful, & she might just forgo the topic of hairy legs altogether as too much trouble!