Daughter needs a bra

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 6, 2010 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara,

My 11-year-old daughter shuts down whenever I bring up the subject of her need to wear a camisole or bra. She wants nothing to do with it. I've tried every approach that I can think of to get her to tell me why, but nothing is working. In the past we have happily bra shopped and even worn one a few times, but now she really needs one and is refusing. She is promising to wear one when school starts. Do I let it go until then? Thanks!

From: Starfisher, Boston, MA

Hi Starfisher,

Girls at this age can be very self-conscious about the changes in their bodies. It's why the baggy look is so popular among some preteens -- it hides the changes. I would absolutely back off for now, just stop talking about it. Every conversation is a reminder that her body is out of control. At least, that's the way it feels for her. So if she's willing to strike a deal to buy a few new items, including the bra, for back to school, go for it. Also check out New Moon, a great site for girls this age and their moms.

In the meantime, I would also get together over the summer with the moms of a few of her girlfriends. If you and the other moms are all on the same page with this, it will be easier for the girls and for you, especially since they probably are not all changing at the same rate. We tend to think that girls who develop last have the hardest time because they feel like the odd person out, but girls who develop first can feel like misfits, too.

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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14 comments so far...
  1. ugh - i remember this. i was this LW daughter.
    i was so embarassed that i just wanted to a die.
    finally my mother just stopped talking to me about it. she went out and bought a bunch of bras and left them in my room and didnt say a word. it was a relief for me - i didnt feel embarassed and i could just start wearing them without it being a huge deal.

    Posted by babyblue August 6, 10 10:13 AM
  1. I was this girl too. I was in 4th grade when I started to need a bra. I really did not want one since I was going to be the only one who needed one yet (I was an early bloomer--I got my period on my 11th birthday). The times when it was most obvious (and painfully embarrassing) was at sleepovers and in the locker room before gym. I was mortified by the changes. I also asked my mom if we could defer until the winter when it would be cooler (the only lame excuse I could think of at that age). My mother agreed and when that time rolled around, I was no longer the only one wearing a camisole so it wasn't a big deal anymore. I think in today's online shopping world it does probably make things a little easier because another big part of the embarrassment for me was the mere prospect that someone from school would see me at the local JCPenney buying bras with my mom. Ugh. I think the back off for now approach is a good one and one that worked for me with my mom.

    Posted by Sleepymama August 6, 10 11:07 AM
  1. I really like babyblue's suggestion. I will add that once all her friends start wearing bras, she will do so, also. I remember when I got my first one, no one else wore one so I didn't either. Give it some time.

    Posted by TQB August 6, 10 11:20 AM
  1. This was also a horrible phase in life for me as well. Like babyblue, I found any discussion about my changing body incredibly embarrassing! I wish my mom had done what babyblue's mom had done! That is a great idea.

    Posted by weymom August 6, 10 11:29 AM
  1. I think babyblue's idea is pretty terrible. It sets a precedent about handling embarrassing or uncomfortable issues. The mom doesn't need to give a big huge lecture about it, but a dialog has got to take place in some way, shape, or form.

    Next year, mom throws a box of pads on the bed. Six months later, some Tampax.

    On 13th birthday, condoms and a gyn appointment card.


    Posted by just-cos August 6, 10 11:46 AM
  1. At least the LW is addressing the situation. My mother either turned a blind eye to any signs that I was growing up or outright refused to let me deal with it, for example, forbidding me to shave. It was far more embarrassing to have to learn about bras, deodorant or hair removal because I had been teased about not having them and then have to plead with mother to have them. Thankfully I was a very late bloomer and by the time I got my period I was beyond being embarrassed and had developed a sense of humor about my mother's inability to deal with sex or my growing up.

    Posted by Cordelia August 6, 10 12:06 PM
  1. You could have my daughter instead. In second grade the bag of hand-me-down clothes from an older cousin (who is older but petite so it was appropriate age and development wise for her to be wearing them) contained a few bras. I wish I had intercepted them, because my daughter started wearing them long before she needed to. I was worried she'd be teased that she was the first to wear a bra!

    Posted by red_mama August 6, 10 12:13 PM
  1. I agree that babyblue's mom took a great approach.

    just-cos, did you miss this line, "finally my mother just stopped talking to me about it."? I took that to mean babyblue's mom had talked to her about needing a bra, but when it became clear that babyblue was mortified, she provided her with an introduction into what she needed, but allowed her to keep her privacy. I think that mom was very smart. Daughters should not be forced to go bra-shopping - or pad-shopping or birth control-shopping - with their mothers. But, yes, moms should provide info.

    Posted by hdv1017 August 6, 10 12:16 PM
  1. @just-cos: No one's advocating for not having a discussion. In both LW's and babyblue's cases, we're past the dialogue stage and well into stalemate territory.

    Posted by Mbop August 6, 10 02:29 PM
  1. Don't know if this will help or not, but when this time came for my 15 year old, her aunt took her out. Not having Mom along I think helped. They made a day of it and talked over many things. This has created a situation where if she feels uncomfortable talking to me she calls her aunt for a "girls day out". My sister doesn't ever tell me what they discuss, but my daughter will sooner or later. Which leads to great talks between us and a relationship that so far is not the battle ground that can develop between teenage girls and their Moms. I am very lucky to have a little sister I can trust this much.

    Posted by aueudumu August 6, 10 02:46 PM
  1. Wait as needed, but don't wait too long.

    I am a well-endowed female who was an early bloomer. I tried a training bra, but it was so scratchy, I refused to wear them after a few times.

    Meanwhile, one day I was running down the steps in a T-shirt jiggling and my Dad said, "You need to start wearing a bra." I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. He was probably doing me a favor in telling me though.

    When I got into a bra shortly thereafter, I was well into a B cup! I got a lot more stretch marks because I waited very long to wear a bra. The good thing is that they have many more options, particularly seamless, options for girls who want the support but no show. Unfortunately, as a 36G usually (I'm breastfeeding and a J cup now) my options are fewer, but I think lingerie is so much nicer now that what I remember 20 years ago.

    Posted by Issybelle August 8, 10 09:39 PM
  1. On another note, as an aunt with a niece who has begged for her Mom to go out and "buy her some boobs" since...oh, age 4-5, the fact that this girl isn't in a hurry to grow up is kind of refreshing, actually.

    Posted by Issybelle August 8, 10 09:40 PM
  1. My mom did the same thing as babyblue when I was 10, and it sounds like a good idea for this daughter. I also got a book and was told come to her if I had any questions. This was the perfect way to handle it; I've always been a very private person and had no interest in discussing my body with anyone, especially my parents.

    Waiting until school starts, I don't think that's a big deal. She has years of wearing a bra ahead of her, let her have the last few weeks of summer without one.

    Posted by mia August 10, 10 05:09 PM
  1. urg i was 8 when i asked but my apparently my mum said yes!it was great to get over it that embarrassing moment!!

    Posted by Elli-jade January 31, 12 04:55 PM
 
14 comments so far...
  1. ugh - i remember this. i was this LW daughter.
    i was so embarassed that i just wanted to a die.
    finally my mother just stopped talking to me about it. she went out and bought a bunch of bras and left them in my room and didnt say a word. it was a relief for me - i didnt feel embarassed and i could just start wearing them without it being a huge deal.

    Posted by babyblue August 6, 10 10:13 AM
  1. I was this girl too. I was in 4th grade when I started to need a bra. I really did not want one since I was going to be the only one who needed one yet (I was an early bloomer--I got my period on my 11th birthday). The times when it was most obvious (and painfully embarrassing) was at sleepovers and in the locker room before gym. I was mortified by the changes. I also asked my mom if we could defer until the winter when it would be cooler (the only lame excuse I could think of at that age). My mother agreed and when that time rolled around, I was no longer the only one wearing a camisole so it wasn't a big deal anymore. I think in today's online shopping world it does probably make things a little easier because another big part of the embarrassment for me was the mere prospect that someone from school would see me at the local JCPenney buying bras with my mom. Ugh. I think the back off for now approach is a good one and one that worked for me with my mom.

    Posted by Sleepymama August 6, 10 11:07 AM
  1. I really like babyblue's suggestion. I will add that once all her friends start wearing bras, she will do so, also. I remember when I got my first one, no one else wore one so I didn't either. Give it some time.

    Posted by TQB August 6, 10 11:20 AM
  1. This was also a horrible phase in life for me as well. Like babyblue, I found any discussion about my changing body incredibly embarrassing! I wish my mom had done what babyblue's mom had done! That is a great idea.

    Posted by weymom August 6, 10 11:29 AM
  1. I think babyblue's idea is pretty terrible. It sets a precedent about handling embarrassing or uncomfortable issues. The mom doesn't need to give a big huge lecture about it, but a dialog has got to take place in some way, shape, or form.

    Next year, mom throws a box of pads on the bed. Six months later, some Tampax.

    On 13th birthday, condoms and a gyn appointment card.


    Posted by just-cos August 6, 10 11:46 AM
  1. At least the LW is addressing the situation. My mother either turned a blind eye to any signs that I was growing up or outright refused to let me deal with it, for example, forbidding me to shave. It was far more embarrassing to have to learn about bras, deodorant or hair removal because I had been teased about not having them and then have to plead with mother to have them. Thankfully I was a very late bloomer and by the time I got my period I was beyond being embarrassed and had developed a sense of humor about my mother's inability to deal with sex or my growing up.

    Posted by Cordelia August 6, 10 12:06 PM
  1. You could have my daughter instead. In second grade the bag of hand-me-down clothes from an older cousin (who is older but petite so it was appropriate age and development wise for her to be wearing them) contained a few bras. I wish I had intercepted them, because my daughter started wearing them long before she needed to. I was worried she'd be teased that she was the first to wear a bra!

    Posted by red_mama August 6, 10 12:13 PM
  1. I agree that babyblue's mom took a great approach.

    just-cos, did you miss this line, "finally my mother just stopped talking to me about it."? I took that to mean babyblue's mom had talked to her about needing a bra, but when it became clear that babyblue was mortified, she provided her with an introduction into what she needed, but allowed her to keep her privacy. I think that mom was very smart. Daughters should not be forced to go bra-shopping - or pad-shopping or birth control-shopping - with their mothers. But, yes, moms should provide info.

    Posted by hdv1017 August 6, 10 12:16 PM
  1. @just-cos: No one's advocating for not having a discussion. In both LW's and babyblue's cases, we're past the dialogue stage and well into stalemate territory.

    Posted by Mbop August 6, 10 02:29 PM
  1. Don't know if this will help or not, but when this time came for my 15 year old, her aunt took her out. Not having Mom along I think helped. They made a day of it and talked over many things. This has created a situation where if she feels uncomfortable talking to me she calls her aunt for a "girls day out". My sister doesn't ever tell me what they discuss, but my daughter will sooner or later. Which leads to great talks between us and a relationship that so far is not the battle ground that can develop between teenage girls and their Moms. I am very lucky to have a little sister I can trust this much.

    Posted by aueudumu August 6, 10 02:46 PM
  1. Wait as needed, but don't wait too long.

    I am a well-endowed female who was an early bloomer. I tried a training bra, but it was so scratchy, I refused to wear them after a few times.

    Meanwhile, one day I was running down the steps in a T-shirt jiggling and my Dad said, "You need to start wearing a bra." I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. He was probably doing me a favor in telling me though.

    When I got into a bra shortly thereafter, I was well into a B cup! I got a lot more stretch marks because I waited very long to wear a bra. The good thing is that they have many more options, particularly seamless, options for girls who want the support but no show. Unfortunately, as a 36G usually (I'm breastfeeding and a J cup now) my options are fewer, but I think lingerie is so much nicer now that what I remember 20 years ago.

    Posted by Issybelle August 8, 10 09:39 PM
  1. On another note, as an aunt with a niece who has begged for her Mom to go out and "buy her some boobs" since...oh, age 4-5, the fact that this girl isn't in a hurry to grow up is kind of refreshing, actually.

    Posted by Issybelle August 8, 10 09:40 PM
  1. My mom did the same thing as babyblue when I was 10, and it sounds like a good idea for this daughter. I also got a book and was told come to her if I had any questions. This was the perfect way to handle it; I've always been a very private person and had no interest in discussing my body with anyone, especially my parents.

    Waiting until school starts, I don't think that's a big deal. She has years of wearing a bra ahead of her, let her have the last few weeks of summer without one.

    Posted by mia August 10, 10 05:09 PM
  1. urg i was 8 when i asked but my apparently my mum said yes!it was great to get over it that embarrassing moment!!

    Posted by Elli-jade January 31, 12 04:55 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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