Hypersexualisation of children: Here’s what a psychologist thinks about bikinis on little girls

Wearing a bikini as a little girl isn’t a trivial subject. It’s a regular conversation between parents, who don’t all agree. Oh!MyMag FR discussed this with a psychologist.

In 2014, a mother was expelled from a wading pool in Canada because she refused to make her 3-year-old daughter wear a bikini top. While the incident took place in Canada, this is a heavily debated subject in several parts of the world.

Is it worthwhile for little girls to wear a two-piece swimming suit? Should they be allowed to wear them?

What position should I take as a parent?

Parents are divided. Some advocate a certain modesty, others may not care, and still, others refuse to cover their daughter's torso because they feel there is nothing to hide and denounce a hypersexualisation of the child. So what position should we take?

For psychologist Aline Nativel Id Hammou, the most important thing for a little girl is to be able to see her own body.

It's how you talk about your body and how you talk about the other's body

The expert, who specialises in child psychology, assures us that these girls' bodies are not objects of desire or sexualisation:

It is always because of the adult's gaze that it will become something sexual.

What is important is the parent's discourse, particularly on modesty and the way in which the child appropriates his or her body and how it is represented.

‘You have to listen and be understanding’

In many cases, the choice to wear a two-piece swimming suit comes directly from the child, influenced by the habits of those around them and by shop shelves full of colourful, glittery clothes. In the case of mimicry, the psychologist finds ‘nothing strange’. Instead, the focus should be on the usefulness of the bikini top and its optionality:

I recommend explaining that at her age, the little girl can take the top off if she wants to.
the choice to wear a two-piece swimming suit comes directly from the child Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

It could be harmful if the child hears ‘hide your nipples’ or ‘hide your chest’. There, the little girl will not understand.

You can refuse to let her not wear a top, but you have to explain why [...] Also support her cognitively and emotionally. If she doesn't want to wear a shirt, you have to listen and understand.

A desire to protect

The parent's decision to dress their daughter in a bikini top is also explained by a certain fear, especially as the subject of child sexual abuse is more in the news today.

Aline Nativel Id Hammou explains:

We are much more hypervigilant on the issue of the sexualisation of little girls.

However, this prevention can become excessive and have an impact on children, even:

Bring about forms of anguish and anxiety in those little girls who are not able to understand.

While she understands the need for parents to protect their offspring, she ultimately recommends focusing on communication. Discussing the usefulness of the two-piece swimming suit, and by extension intimacy, can also open the way to a discussion about the body. This is a valuable, even essential, exchange at that age.

This article was translated from Oh!MyMag FR.

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