Your Daughter Got a Barbie Doll (and you aren't sure how you feel about it)

Your Daughter Got a Barbie Doll (and you aren't sure how you feel about it)

Remember when you were a little girl and you were waiting and waiting and waiting to get that special doll? You knew, just knew!, what it was from the wrapping and could not wait to get it open. Your doll was going to be your best friend, your confidant, your way to explore the world, and your never ending companion. You did not care what anyone else thought. That doll was your world.

Dolls and girls have a complex, and incredibly important relationship. Dolls help children build a wonderfully creative world that feels manageable. They get to explore options with their dolls, express emotions with their dolls, and learn about life with their dolls. The importance of dolls in the lives of girls cannot be denied.

Barbie is embarking on an exciting shift in its rich 57-year history. In addition to the original doll, Barbie is going to be offering three additional options: curvy, petite and tall. Barbie will also have a variety of skin tones, hairstyles, eye colors and facial shapes. For many girls, Barbie will be more representative of them!

For many girls’ mothers, however, there may be some doubt. There may be some questions: what is the message if my daughter gets a curvy doll? Will there be shame in that? What if she gets the tall doll but doesn’t like her own height? These concerns are often passed down to our girls more than they are generated by them.

Most children are accepting of all things. Although they notice differences, they don’t question them as we do as adults. Children learn from their environments about what is, and what is not, okay. Ask your daughter what she loves about her Barbie. Her answer might surprise you. She may not be focused on her appearance, rather she may love that she can be an astronaut or a scuba diver or anything she wants. Your daughter may see these new dolls in that way, too: as a representation of what the world looks like and what she can be.

As adults, our judgments often cloud our behaviors. It can be hard to navigate our own reactions around children, especially as it comes to the dolls they choose or the toys with which they play. When we think of something in a negative way, our daughters see it, hear it and might accept it as truth. That is why it so important for us to notice what our judgments are and how they might impact the children in our lives.

The relationship a child has with her doll is clearly important. Barbie is an important doll in the lives of girls. A Barbie that is representative of not only the environment in which girls live, but also of the girls themselves, is so exciting. Focus on supporting and accepting the relationship between your daughter and her doll and encourage her creativity. Focus less on the belief that this doll is, in some way, sending the wrong message to your daughter. If she sees your excitement and acceptance of her Barbie, it only broadens her own.

Jennifer L. Hartstein, PsyD