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The Parent'Hood

Underwear uh-oh

Your 13-year-old is spending her money on flashy, colorful bras. Does this mean anything?

By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers

3:26 PM EDT, March 26, 2013

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Parent advice

From our panel of staff contributors

Not at all. It's a rite of passage for 13-year-old girls. The fact that she wants them to be flashy and colorful doesn't mean she is going to flaunt the bras — blame it on Victoria's Secret for inspiring her. Let your daughter enjoy her developmental milestone.

Brenda Richardson

I'd be more worried about the spending part than the bra part. Every teenage girl wears colorful, even outrageous underwear. But if that's where all her money goes, it's time for a talk.

Ellen Warren

Only going by advertising fliers, my just-passing-through walks in lingerie departments, and the La Perla store between my office and the ATM, but do they sell nonflashy bras anymore?

Phil Vettel

Expert advice

A quick jaunt through Justice, where tie-dyed bras hang next to tie-dyed book bags (and tie-dyed journals and tie-dyed fuzzy slippers and tie-dyed headbands), is evidence enough that a flashy, colorful bra is about as suggestive as … a book bag (or a journal or fuzzy slippers or, well, you get the point).

"It's not like when we grew up, and it was all white or beige or — if you were really lucky — days-of-the-week underwear," says clinical psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, author of "Stressed-Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure" (Penguin). "She's just taking advantage of what's offered. This is the norm now."

She's also embracing a period of life that can be pretty angsty.

"I think it's wonderful that she has found a way to be comfortable with her new body," Cohen-Sandler says. "When girls experience puberty and their breasts start growing, some are more comfortable with it than others. I love that she has embraced wearing bras and found a way to take care of her body and dress in an appropriate and fun way by experimenting with something that's invisible to most other people."

If the fear is that the bra is actually visible to other people — and not just her teammates in the locker room — that's a topic you should certainly explore with her. But make sure it's based on more than a bra.

"I wouldn't think you could extrapolate that this girl is being an exhibitionist," Cohen-Sandler says. "If the concern is that this might be a sign of something sexual going on, you're hopefully going on more evidence and other sources of concern as well."

"And hopefully by age 13 you're already having conversations with your daughter about sexuality and her own self-worth," she adds.

The bras, though, are most likely innocent indulgences.

"A bra itself would not bring me concern unless it's in the context of many other things," she says. "I think she's buying them because they're fun and she can make a fashion statement in a quiet way that's cute and fun and lets her feel good about herself."

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