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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1168
Experience:  Licensed as psychologist and marriage and family therapist
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I have a 10 year old son who has been asking us to buy him

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I have a 10 year old son who has been asking us to buy him a girl's swimsuit (2 piece, aqua blue) for the last year. When asked why, he said it looks so cool and will wear it only in the privacy of his room when his sister, age 6, is not around. What do we do as his parents?

Dr Levang :

Hello,

Dr Levang :

I would like to help you with your question.

Customer:

ok

Dr Levang :

This is a very tough situation. On the one hand you want to encourage his creativity and self-expression. Still...a 10 year old boy wearing a 2 piece girls swimsuit is not appropriate in public and is likely to have a negative impact on his self-esteem as others would be rejecting and even hurtful.

Dr Levang :

What keeps you from saying Yes to his request?

Dr Levang :

Are you afraid that he might be gay? Or about the teasing and bullying that might happen?

Dr Levang :

When he says he will just wear in the privacy of his room...that indicates that he knows it is not socially acceptable. At the same time he is worried that his sister will disapprove.

Customer:

he is afraid his sister will tell everybody.

Dr Levang :

And that he will be shamed?

Customer:

embarassed.

Dr Levang :

So...what do you think about his desire to wear this swimsuit?

Dr Levang :

What concerns you?

Customer:

i don't have a problem buying him a suit but am concerned if this is a symptom of something deeper or if it is just a phase that he will outgrow.

Dr Levang :

Has he shown a preference for girls clothes in the past?

Customer:

no

Dr Levang :

Are you concerned about his sexuality?

Dr Levang :

Is there something unique about this swimsuit? You can buy him aqua colored boys trunks ... right?

Dr Levang :

Is it the color that he likes? Or does he want the bra top?

Customer:

no. just need to know whether buying him a suit would be okay at this age.

Customer:

he wants a two piece suit in aqua blue

Dr Levang :

ok

Customer:

in your expert opinion, should we buy him a suit or not?

Dr Levang :

Yes...let him have the suit. You risk him having issues with body image later on if he doesn't feel free to dress as he wants.

Dr Levang :

I would also encourage you to go to the following website to read more about sexuality issues

Dr Levang :

www.slag.com

Dr Levang :

Your son already knows that he could be ridiculed for wearing the suit in public so he is well aware of people's opinions. What you want is for him to be comfortable in his body and comfortable with his identity. So...the less emphasis you place on this the better.

Dr Levang :

It is possible that this is a phase of life in which he is simply exploring his identity.

Dr Levang :

As I say, the less attention you place on this the better.

Customer:

Could this possibly be connected to his ADHD?

Customer:

or jealousy of the attention his sister gets?

Dr Levang :

Those could all be possibilities.

Dr Levang :

It might be best to ask him that in a gentle way.

Customer:

he also has the maturity of an eight or nine year old at best

Dr Levang :

So...it could be more about being immature and not being ready to give up more childish behaviors.

Dr Levang :

Have you done any reading on EQ?

Dr Levang :

Emotional Intelligence?

Dr Levang :

You also might find that helpful. We all know what IQ is, but EQ is about social skills, relationships, and how we get along with others.

Dr Levang :

There is also a wonderful book called The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel that is really quite fantastic in talking about children's behaviors.

Dr Levang :

I think these things might prove beneficial in better understanding your son's behavior and motivations.

Dr Levang :

How does that sound?

Customer:

he is in 4th grade IEP and his report cards show him at 25 percentile third grade in reading and math.

Dr Levang :

Does he get tutored in the summer?

Dr Levang :

It certainly sounds like a tough situation.

Customer:

yes and will be going to Sylvan this summer

Dr Levang :

Does he get into trouble at school...or how is he doing.

Dr Levang :

Great plan!

Dr Levang :

Please read the Brain book....I know it will prove very helpful for you. Dan Siegel is a fantastic researcher and expert on the brain.

Customer:

so botXXXXX XXXXXne advice from an expert is go ahead and buy him the suit? what if he wants more than one? and starts asking for a girl costume? will these books give me some guidance>

Dr Levang :

I think you need to take this one step at a time. Get him the one suit and see how that goes. Ask him if he is jealous of his sister and that's what the suit is about. If he is jealous of her...you want to nip that in the bud. Right?

Dr Levang :

The website will provide you with guidance. The other two books will help you understand him a bit better and will provide tools for helping him emotionally as well as cognitively.

Dr Levang :

Your local library will have the books or be able to get them.

Customer:

In one of our chats, I did ask him if he was jealous of his sister and the attention she gets and he did admit it.

Dr Levang :

Yes...a very likely motivation for the swim suit then.

Dr Levang :

Do you think he would benefit from more attention?

Customer:

We have given him all the attention we possibly can, but it seems that it is attention from other people that he is jealous of his sister about.

Dr Levang :

Okay.

Dr Levang :

Well...there is not much you can do about that other than to make sure that he feels loved. If these other people are family members or relatives a gentle reminder that he also would appreciate attention might be possible...

Customer:

Will have to sign off now. Thanks for your help and advice.

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