It may be time for a chat with your daughter

Newsday Staff Writer

August 10, 2006

With salacious headlines about celebrity husbands in their 30s and 40s having flings with girls in their teens, parents would be wise to have a talk with their daughters about making smart dating choices so they don't get entangled with someone else's spouse, experts say.

From an early age, girls are hit with images from television, movies and marketers "that you have to be sort of into hot-tubbing, clubbing, partying, fashion ... a bunch of the superficial stuff," said Sharon Lamb, a developmental psychologist in Vermont and co-author of the new book, "Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes," (St. Martin's Press, $24.95).

Parents can combat those messages and prevent their daughters from succumbing to the "sexy teen diva" image, Lamb said. "Tell her, 'It's fun when people are interested in you for the way you look and the image you put out there, but know who you are. And I want you to go for the guy who knows that, too.'"

Parents can open the lines of communication, said Debbie Mandel, a stress-management specialist in Lawrence. "Too often we're pontificating," she said. "Listen." Often, teens are more likely to open up in low-stress situations, such as while you're taking a walk. Girls "are very easily seduced," she added. "An older man is very seductive to a young girl. But they can be harmed psychically and emotionally for years to come."

Instruct girls not to buy every line some smooth-talker gives them, experts said. Make some agreements with them, said Rafael Javier, a professor of psychology at St. John's University. For instance, if they go to a club, ask them to agree to not be alone with someone they just met. And if they are of drinking age, tell them to keep alcohol to a minimum, he added.

Your kids will mirror what they see you do, so set a good example, Manhattan psychiatrist Ahron Friedberg said. "If parents have a happy and successful marriage, then the child will try to emulate this," he said.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.