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Ask Lisi: How can I help my teen navigate puberty, 'mean girls'?

Teach your daughter to hold her head up high and not care about what other people are saying about her behind her back.
Lisi Tesher, for Ask Ellie column

Dear Lisi: My daughter has hit puberty HARD! She woke up one morning with hair under her arms and her small buds had blossomed into very large breasts. Thankfully it was the weekend, so we were able to run out and buy her some bras. Only that week, she was supported in a crop top.

I feel for her. In high school, I was flat-chested but didn’t care and was outgoing. Some of the girls were embarrassed by their lack of chest, while my friend and I, who were both quite sporty, didn’t mind at all. Then, one summer while away from my mom and the city, I woke up to find large breasts. Thankfully, a friend noticed and lent me her bras until I could get home, and my mom took me shopping.

In my day, the boys noticed everything — and commented; but the girls didn’t seem to care. Everyone was too busy with their own issues, I guess. But my daughter is in the opposite situation: the boys don’t care, or at least, haven’t commented, while the girls are being mean and showing their jealousy.

My daughter understands that her body is growing (it’s called puberty, people!) and she can’t do anything about it. But she doesn’t understand why the girls are being mean to her as a result.

How can I help her?

Growing pains

You can teach your daughter to hold her head up high and not care about what other people are saying about her behind her back. Those girls are jealous and, because one girl thought being mean was the way forward, they’ve all followed her lead.

Your daughter needs to hang out with those people who are her real friends and don’t care what she looks like … and the boys. Hopefully the girls will figure out that if the boys are hanging out with your daughter, they should be nicer to her too.

Empower her not to care and not to be ashamed of her body in any way.

FEEDBACK Regarding the mom shocked at the young girls and their tight T-shirts (April 17):

Reader – “I was crushed and disturbed when reading the letter from ‘boob alert’ and your response. I understand that this is a very multi-faceted issue, and you must be relegated to a certain word count, but this letter was an opportunity to address the real crux of the matter presented.

“Why does the onus still fall on children and not on the adults who are sexualizing them? The teaching moment here would be to allow the letter writer to personally reflect on this way of thinking. Are we raising yet another generation of girls to be ashamed and confused of their bodies, with the misguided delusion that what they wear will protect them from predatory behaviour?

“It is up to each parent to decide how they want to raise their children, and how they want to teach them about an unsafe world and personal protection. If the letter writer wants to teach their own children this, they have full rights to make that error. They have no right to insert themselves into other parents’ choices for their children’s clothing.

“As one of too many survivors of childhood sexual abuse who was taught to be ashamed of my body, it is imperative we all come to the mutual understanding that teaching children to feel shame for something they cannot fully understand is not the way forward. This should not be their burden. The issue here is the disturbing way the letter writer is fixated on the ‘enormous breasts’ of school children.”

Dear Lisi: I’ve just been invited to a two-night get-away with a group of women whom I adore. I would love to go especially as the venue is on my bucket list. The problem is that one of the women has invited her sister who I can’t stand.

I’m not alone in my distaste for this woman, and the two other women who also don’t like her want me to figure it out.

I really want to go but I’m not sure I can handle three days with this woman.


If the three of you don’t go because of this other woman, you’ll lose out on a great experience and no one else will be any worse off. That doesn’t seem like the right move.

Share a room with your friends, plan activities with your friends, and join the group here and there. You’re adults; you can handle this.

Lisi Tesher is an advice columnist based in Toronto. Send your relationship questions via email: [email protected]