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Views differ on how much skin to show

How certain situations with teenagers are an opportunity to focus on building and strengthening the relationship.

QUESTION:

I am a concerned mother of a very headstrong girl in her late teens. She has always worn revealing clothing, influenced by social media, and has no modesty at all when she goes to the beach. She has just returned from a holiday on the Gold Coast where, according to friends of ours, she went topless on the beach and wore only a G-string.

She is also pregnant, so as a parent I am even more concerned about the lack of modesty on the beach. I always thought there were laws about what was considered decent swimwear at our beaches, especially public popular beaches.

ANSWER: 

The panel was not certain about the laws on Gold Coast beaches, but most states have laws about indecent behaviour. In South Australia such an offence is punishable by a fine up to $1250, or three months’ imprisonment. An offence is not committed if the behaviour in question occurs in a place that has been proclaimed as exempt, such as a nudist beach.

To some extent the meaning of what is indecent must be judged by the courts by reference to community standards, which are constantly changing. It may be your daughter’s behaviour on a beach at the Gold Coast was not something any person took exception to.

If you are considering discussing issues of ‘modesty” with your daughter, particularly in relation to her pregnancy, choose your words very carefully. Views on what is appropriate behaviour, including one’s choice of clothing or lack thereof (within the law) are personal, generational and cultural. Whatever your views, a ‘very headstrong girl” will generally not take kindly to her mother’s judgment in this area.

Remember the primary goal of late adolescence is to pull away from family, especially parents, and forge an identity with peers.

Try identifying the actual rather than perceived risks. Allow your daughter to express herself as an individual and make mistakes.

Your concerns may at times be valid, but in the absence of being able to influence your daughter, perhaps consider what you can do to look after yourself and this relationship.

This is a time to focus on supporting and joining with your daughter, to build and strengthen your relationship with the mother of your grandchild.

Is this a battle worth fighting, or can you put it in perspective? Is she causing harm to herself or anyone else? Given her pregnancy, try to focus on her needs and plans. Offer reassurance and support.

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Fill out the form below or send questions to Family Forum, The Advertiser, 31 Waymouth St, Adelaide 5000.

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Relationships Australia SA appoints panels of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it.

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