A new survey conducted by TODAY is showing that 62 percent of parents say their biggest fear this Halloween is seeing more little girls trick-or-treating in revealing costumes that are far from age appropriate. The persistence of ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes has been a topic of discussion for almost as long as anyone under 30-years-old can remember, but some parents are still struggling to find a good way to explain their thoughts on the subject to their children.
Per the TODAY report accompanying the survey’s findings, for many parents, there isn’t a real discussion to have. The answer is simply no.
“I feel like we need to teach our daughter’s self-respect,” said Maryland mom Jennifer Diamond. “They are worth more than their looks.”
Though Diamond’s comments could be interpreted as her suggesting that girls who wear these kinds costumes don’t have self-respect, she noted that her real question as it relates to her daughter is “what am I teaching her?” The challenge for parents is finding a way to thoughtfully unpack what it means to sexualize somebody. According to child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a good trick is explaining that most sexy costumes are simply adult versions of what their kids actually want.
“A ‘sexy’ bunny is not dressing as a bunny, it’s dressing as a grown woman dressing as a bunny,” said Gilboa. “Use that distinction to explain your concern to kids. ‘You may dress as any character or animal you’d like, but not as a grown woman dressing up as that character.'”
Still, Gilboa says that distinction becomes a lot harder to make as the child in question gets older.
“For middle schoolers or young teens it is totally reasonable to explain the commercialization or sexualization of costumes and Halloween and why you aren’t willing to let your daughter be a part of that yet,” said Gilboa. “Many middle schoolers will understand being exploited by society and be willing to push back against that.”