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How To Explain To Your Children When Good TV Celebs Go Bad

A few weeks ago during the Video Music Awards (VMAs), Miley Cyrus gave us quite a show. You may have seen it, and if you did not, consider yourself lucky. I'm sure by now, most of us have seen, at a minimum, a picture or two of her debacle performance.

We had the VMAs on in our house, although I must admit, no one was an active participant in actually paying close attention to the show. The awards were on as background TV. We didn't necessarily want to watch, but we didn't want to miss any stellar performances either. So, we went about our business keeping a watch for good music and possibly some good dancing.

And then the formerly squeaky clean Miley Cyrus took to the stage in a "barely there" outfit. Cyrus' goal, according to her, was to upstage the smooch that Madonna and Britney Spears shared years earlier during the VMAs. I'm not certain that she accomplished her goal, but she certainly had jaws dropping and tongues wagging.

Performers have every right to dress as they choose and gyrate as they see fit. However, I was left with a very curious 11-year old who couldn't quite understand what happened to Hannah Montana, a pure and innocent character once played by Cyrus and and a TV show by the same name that was once broadcast via the family-friendly Disney Channel.

See, even though my daughter didn't watch the VMAs, all her friends were talking about it. It didn't help that Cyrus booty danced and twerked her way into Robin Thicke's heart to the beat of his break out hit "Blurred Lines", which, oh by the way, happens to be the number one song on every 11-year-old girl's playlist.

As I struggled to understand the situation myself, I had an even more difficult time trying to explain Cyrus' behavior to my daughter, but eventually I did in a way that she understood.

Here are some tips for broaching this subject with you children in ways that are meaningful and educational.

1. Paint a realistic picture - Miley Cyrus is not Hannah Montana. She is an actress who played a part. This is often difficult for children to grasp. Help them understand that the celebrity and the part he/she played are two very separate and distinct people. Point out the difference between the fictional character and the non-fictional person.

2. Everyone grows up - Miley Cyrus is 20 years old. She's a viable young adult who wants to act like one. I had to explain to my daughter that Cyrus is now 20 years old. She's no longer the 14 year old Hannah Montana character she once portrayed. Putting her age into perspective helps to make her behavior less startling and less questionable.

3. Celebrities are human - They will make mistakes just like anyone else does. The problem for them is that they are often held under a magnifying glass because they are public figures. I'm sure there are plenty of men and women who danced the same way Cyrus and Thicke did, but they aren't being broadcast on national TV. We often place celebrities on pedestals and examine them so closely and scrutinize them more than is necessary. 

4. Turn the situation into a teaching opportunity - When my daughter and I discussed Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy a few years ago, I turned it into a chance to talk about how your choices have consequences and how your decisions will ultimately affect almost every aspect of your life. My daughter was upset to learn that Spears' hit show Zoey 101 was cancelled as a result of her pregnancy. As an aspiring actress, my daughter quickly learned the lesson of how this one choice of Spears' virtually led to the demise of her promising career. It can be a powerful message to your children when presented correctly.

Miley Cyrus and Jamie Lynn Spears aren't the first celebrities to hit pitfalls. There were plenty before and there will be plenty to follow. No matter what the age, the expectations are high for celebrities. Keeping that in mind will help you and your children better deal with unexpected behavior from our favorite stars who are thrust into the limelight.

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Comment by Sheila Hill on September 13, 2013 at 5:17pm

Thank you! Yes, unfortunately, bad behavior can have a negative effect on many aspects of our lives. I recently read that her fiance has distanced himself from Cyrus since her performance on the VMAs.

Comment by L Klonsky on September 13, 2013 at 12:29pm

Nice article!  My elementary-school aged daughter and I also discussed it.  As Miley has gone downhill, we've talked about how she is making some really bad decisions and what some of the repercussions of those decisions might be (people might not hire her, her fiance may break up with her, people don't respect her).  Interestingly enough, it was my teenage son who, I thought, learned the most.  He said, "Mom, girls like that just want attention. It's sad really.  I could never go out with a girl who did stuff like that."  Wise boy.

Comment by Hackensack Meridian Health on September 12, 2013 at 1:55pm

Great article Sheila! Very good points.

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