At the height of the Hannah Montana craze, my daughter, Katie, was about seven. She had Hannah costumes, microphones, books, and, if I'm not mistaken, a fake blonde hair attachment. Most of this is long gone, donated to Goodwill or passed along to friends with younger kids. Rarely will my daughter, who turned 11 last month, say anything about the former Disney Channel star and the show she obsessed about in second and third grades. But a couple of months ago when she saw a picture of "the new Miley" on the cover of a magazine at the supermarket checkout, she asked me, "Why would she do that to herself?"
I don't remember what I said exactly—something about not wanting to look anything like Hannah Montana ever again. Now after Miley's performance on the MTV Video Music Awards last night, I'm pretty sure the topic of Miley's appearance is going to come up again either on the next trip to the store or maybe even as early as this afternoon if she hears about it (hopefully minus the twerking details) at school. This time I want to have a response in mind. So I called Dr. Carolyn Ivers-Landis, an associate professor of pediatrics and licensed clinical psychologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. I knew from a previous interview with Dr. Ivers-Landis that her daughter, now nearly 14, was a Miley fan too.
"I'm going to use this situation as an opportunity to talk about respect with her," she told me. "Miley's outrageous performance caused a lot of people to lose respect for her. It's crucial for teens to know how important respect is, and how easily it can be lost." For pre-tweens and tweens, Dr. Ivers-Landis said she would focus the conversation on values. "You should ask your daughter, 'Do you think dressing like Miley is okay?' or 'Do you think she made a smart choice?'" she advised me. "These types of questions can lead into a discussion about making decisions that fit your family's values."
That sounds like a plan. And as for the one or two pieces of Hanna Montana merch my daughter does still have in her room, I'm not off to trash it like I heard some moms are doing. It will be my daughter's choice whether she wants to keep it (for the memories) or not. If anyone wants to share how the conversation with your girls went, I'm all ears!