Too young to slay

They dress to kill and are always decked in the latest fashion, but their faces betray their age. We explore the danger of sexualising children

They are the true image of divas. They are sassy, their make-up is perfect and their clothes are flamboyant and colourful and a tad too mature for their age.

The only thing that makes them look odd is their size – these miniature divas are children, not grown-ups.

The debate on parents thrusting children into the world of adults by dressing them in seductive clothes was reingnited recently when businesswoman and former model, Joyceline Adhiambo posted a picture on her Instagram page of her six-year-old daughter, Aliyah Abby wearing make-up and posing provocatively.

When criticised for allowing her daughter to imitate US reality show divas, the Kardashians, and to become a real life “Barbie clone,” Adhiambo clawed back at her critics, telling them to keep off her life.  Abby, her daughter fired back saying she does her make-up, not her mum.

Another mother, Margret Wambui, admits to exposing her daughter, Shirleen Shantel, six, to sexually explicit songs and adult content as well as body-exposing clothes.

And for sure, if you see her daughter dancing she can give Beyonce a run for her money. She runs her hands over her body and shakes her bootie hard while her mother cheers her on.

“If my daughter is going through a phase then I am happy to let her “test the waters” to find out what her lifelong fondness will be. I want her to look sexy and like a chic and that is why I have exposed her to all this, “ she says.

Her justification for doing this is that it is trendy.

However, Nimwaka Maria, also a parent, says this is a bad idea and she cannot expose her child to such content and mode of dressing because children are supposed to be decent and smart.

“You need to be keen on what you are exposing your child to because the natural lines meant to protect children have become dangerously blurred as children, especially girls have become burdened with the inappropriate transfer of adult sexuality,” says Maria.

According to John Wagatua, a sex therapist, even though children are nowadays getting worried about their appearance and are more aware of sexual issues at earlier stages, whatever they see has the potential of influencing them positively or negatively.

“Whatever children learn as appropriate from their parents who are their significant others remains appropriate in the long term. Don’t do or say anything that you wouldn’t want your children to copy,” he says.

The danger of sexualising children, he says, is they might  grow up thinking that it is the appropriate thing to do and a parent may not control their actions when they become teenagers because they failed to draw the line at the right time.

“When you feel they are going overboard and you try to control it, they will remind you of what you were doing to them sometime back.

For example if you allow your eight -year-old child to wear a short dress then she turns 13 years and you want her to cover herself, it won’t be possible,” he adds.

According to him, even though short dresses will make your daughter look cute, every child’s dignity needs to be preserved because sometime they may do something unknowingly and attract ridicule from their friends.

Studies have shown that children exposed to a high-level of sexually explicit information tend to become sexually active early.

This is because they put it into practice what they learn and it becomes normal to them.

“It pains me when I hear some children belting out sexually explicit lyrics; I ask myself how they became exposed to these songs. As a parent, you can’t play the CD of such songs and not expect your children to pick them up,” he says.

His advice is that since children have their lives ahead of them, parents should set them on the right path by teaching them to dress decently and sing age-appropriate songs.

Parents should let their children be children and they should train them in a way that they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

“Decency to me is what is morally right, something that does not put you in a compromising situation, but most of all what you are comfortable with. Don’t do anything to hurt yourself and please anyone else: do what is right by you,” he concludes.

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