Children can use their wardrobe in a wide range of ways to make statements about who they are, who they aren’t and who they want to be. Sometimes, they hope that their wardrobes will change how others perceive them—and even how they might perceive themselves. Clothes, can by accident or with intent, send strong messages to both the peer and adult communities. It is a difficult job as a parent to allow your child to express themselves through their clothing while also making sure their choices are socially appropriate. We're here to make those morning decisions easier and help you help your child understand the impact of fashion decisions. Below you can find 5 helpful fashion tips for parents that can help guide conversations with your children this fall.
1) Ensure your child understands any messages or wording that is being communicated on the clothing.
Through the years, we have noticed that several of our students wear clothing, mostly t-shirts, that contain messaging such as slogans or slang terms that the child does not even fully understand. They may not be aware that it is provocative or otherwise not age appropriate. For example, in the boys section of Forever 21's website, there are T-shirts decorated with graphic slogans like, "Sorry ladies, I only date models," and, "Chicks are all over me" — shirts intended for boys as young as 5 years old. Shirts like these sexualize children at an age when it is not appropriate. It reinforces a harmful stereotype about boys that says their value and worth is dependent on how many girls or women they can 'conquer.' This has a ripple effect that can harm boys, both gay and straight, as well as girls. Parents and children should be mindful of words or images on their children's clothing and the types of messaging that it communicates to the child as well as his or her peers and community.
2) Dress for success and understand how clothing choices influence mood and confidence levels.
The style and the clothes your child chooses reflect and affect mood, health, and overall confidence. In fact, what he or she wears can influence thinking and negotiating skills, and even hormone levels and heart rate. This phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition” can be felt by children as young as 4 and 5. Make sure your child feels comfortable and confident in what they are wearing . This means all items should be clean, free of wrinkles and stains, and fit comfortably on the child. Oversized or undersized pants can stigmatize a child and give off the impression of laziness and lack of self-awareness. A polished outfit, from head to toe, indicates to others that a child takes pride in his or her identify, displays confidence and maturity, all of which make that child more socially desirable to other kids.
3) Plan ahead: Is your child laying down the law about clothing choices?
This is more common in younger children who start to exercise independence and test parental limits through clothing decisions. However, regardless of the child’s age, don't let it ruin your mornings! Kids do well with choices and you can compromise by giving your child several outfit options to empower him or her in the process. Furthermore, kids this age love looking at photos of themselves (don’t we all). Use this to your advantage by making a step-by-step picture guide of your child's morning activities. It could show waking up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, and breakfast. Hang it in the child’s room, where he or she can follow it each day. If you have the child choose his or her outfit the night before, you can head off one huge time-sucking morning meltdown maker: the harried search for a favorite shirt – that's then found at a later time at the bottom of the hamper.
4) Dress school appropriate but still be yourself- Parents and children should work together collaboratively to understand school dress code.
Many schools use a school dress code (which may be a full uniform head to toe) in order to reduce the need for administrators and teachers to be “clothes police” (for example, determining whether shorts are too short, etc.) In addition, these schools believe that school dress instills a sense of community and alleviates children’s concerns about dressing a certain way to fit in. Nonetheless, students and parents argue that uniforms violate their freedom of expression. Rather than considering these restrictions for a child, reframe it by finding creative ways in which the child can still feel empowered through clothing choices. Provide your child an alternative outlet for their own expression: buttons to support certain causes, bracelets (and even belts and socks) can be a vehicle for self-expression. Get creative!
5) Utility and Functionality over style when it comes to backpacks: Take the weight off your child’s shoulders.
Heavy backpacks contribute to back and shoulder pain and possibly more severe health consequences into adulthood. Heavy backpacks worn by individuals with weak core muscles can only exacerbate the issue. Cute and trendy backpacks for school are great but your child’s bag should be practical as well. Look for a bag with padded, wide straps and a pelvic strap (think of a seat belt that clasps in front). Make sure that the backpack weighs no more than 20% of your child’s total body weight. Urge him or her to wear both straps at all times and to make sure that the bag sits snugly against his back instead of down by the pelvic bone. Encouraging your child to carry less to school also helps him or her plan ahead for the day instead of stuffing every item he or she might possibly need into the bag. By following these tips, your child can stay organized and proactive, improve posture and gait, while avoiding back strain and other potential health issues.