The Washington Post

Readers’ advice on girls’ clothes and staying friends with a divorcing couple


While I’m away, readers give the advice.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On overly sexualized clothing for girls:

Why feel nervous about little girls’ short-shorts and midriff tops? Would people similarly get nervous about a little boy playing outside in the summer with no shirt at all?

I know it’s hard to raise kids in a world that isn’t always safe for them. Does a little girl’s clothing choice matter in that regard? How can you say that to a child without hurting her? “We don’t want you to wear the short-shorts in fashion because we don’t want you to attract the wrong kind of attention.” That’s kind of the peewee version of the rape myth, what a woman wears or does is part of why she gets raped.

Parents should focus less on shaping girls into their image of what a girl should be and more on strengthening them for their futures as young ladies. — M.

I believe that there are several things the family can do to make sure a girl is safe and body-proud, which will shield her better than a focus on clothing.

First, Mom and Dad can make a point to praise the daughter once a week or more on something she has done, whether a book report, or learning to turn a cartwheel or listening to a friend.

Second, give her an opportunity to be part of a community focused outside herself: e.g., packing boxes for the food bank or painting a Habitat for Humanity house. This is all about the person she will be, not the clothes she wears.

Third, see that she is involved in something she loves that makes her sweat. It can be karate, dance, gymnastics, swimming or playing an instrument. Athletes (and marching band members) in high school with 7 a.m. practice don’t wear much makeup, especially when they have a match at 4 p.m. as well. Athletes are proud of their bodies just the way they are, thanks. — S.

On being friends with both halves of a divorcing couple:

It’s not about deciding whose side you were on in the divorce but being clear about the kind of friendship you can offer moving forward. What you see as anger probably includes a lot of pain. Do you want to be there for her to talk about anything, including that pain? Anything except the divorce? Or do you just want to be socially comfortable? Be sure you tell them the truth.

To survive a difficult divorce, a person has to establish boundaries and find emotional safety. Are you available for that? They deserve to know your new limits — will you be talking to him on the street politely, inviting him to dinner, or baking his birthday cake if necessary? Then she can decide if this is “just one more thing” to get used to (in a world where everything has changed) or if she needs to look for new, more emotionally secure relationships. — Surviving Friend

On fairness:

“Fair” is the card people play when they don’t like the hand they’ve been dealt, and they want what you have.

I find this applies in many circumstances, not merely ugly family dynamics. — Pastor/Chaplain

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Making family dinnertime happen
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
Play Videos
A veteran finds healing on a dog sled
Learn to make this twice-baked cookie
How to prevent 'e-barrassment'
Play Videos
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
The art of tortilla-making
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Circus nuns: These sisters are no act
5 ways to raise girls to be leaders
Cool off with sno-balls, a New Orleans treat

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.