Fashion Statements: When Your Child Has a New Look for School

The beginning of the school year is a time for lots of changes and adjustments-your children may be nervous or anxious about making the switch from preschool to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, going from middle school to high school, or even going off to college.

Because the new school year signifies a new milestone in your child’s life, he or she may opt to change their ‘look’ this year. This is probably fine in some cases, but it could be cause for alarm for many parents. Don’t quite know how to handle your daughter’s new hairstyle, or your son’s request for a tattoo? Here are some suggestions that may help.

Don’t panic.

One of the worst things you can do is lose your temper or get upset when your child comes to you and tells you that he or she wants to do something different fashion-wise for the new school year. The fact that your son or daughter trusts you enough to let you know that they’re thinking of changing their look is not something to be taken lightly, since every parent knows it can be extremely difficult to communicate with children, especially as they grow older. Instead of telling your child what’s wrong with his or her fashion idea(s), try to offer alternate suggestions instead. For instance, if your daughter wants to dye her hair a new color that you don’t think is flattering (and, for the record, blue highlights don’t look good on anyone), you may want to suggest colors that will compliment her skin tone.

You may even want to take her to a beauty salon for a consultation with a stylist; teenagers are much more likely to take advice from professionals. You can also arrange for a fashion consultant, or a friend or family member that you trust to help guide your daughter’s fashion choices for the year. Let your child know that you encourage her self-exploration, and want her to look as beautiful as possible. You may even have to bend a little-if you don’t like the new clothes she’s bought for the year, try not to make a big deal out of it, unless the clothes are inappropriate for school. After all, we all go through fashion phases, and by the middle of the semester, she may be wearing something totally different.

Encourage individuality.

Like adults, the fashion choices children make directly reflect their personal style and self-perception. Sometimes kids choose to dress or wear their hair a certain way in order to get attention, so it’s important to pay attention to your child’s behavior, his circle of friends, and the way he feels about school in order to properly assess his fashion choices. When your child knows that you make parenting a priority, and are genuinely interested in their interests and goals, trying to gain attention through unruly or strange fashion choices won’t be very common. Sometimes wearing clothes that will grab everyone’s attention or clothes that will make them invisible isn’t just a new fashion trend-it’s a cry for help, and you should definitely pay attention.

If your child feels comfortable expressing themselves at home, this will definitely be evident in the clothes your child chooses to wear for the new school year. Of course, kids also make fashion choices based on what their friends and ‘everyone else’ is wearing. When you encourage individuality in your kids, you’re letting them know that it’s all right to have their own unique style, even when it comes to fashion. It seems kind of contradictory if you want your kids to make good grades even though their friends may not be, or to be compassionate and understanding to others even when those around them aren’t, but give them a hard time when it comes to fashion. When you teach your kids that it’s ok not to be like everyone else, except to keep this same attitude about the way your kids dress. This will also reduce the likelihood of your kids’ adopting the fashion trends of their peers that may not be appropriate. So, if your son comes home with a new hat (that you really don’t care for) or pants that you think may be too big, express your opinion objectively without being too judgmental. This way, he won’t feel attacked, and may decide to change his outfits after a while just because he knows you don’t like them. Of course, he’ll never admit this to you, but hey, you can’t have it all.

Pick out clothes you know your kids will like.

If you’re going school shopping with your son or daughter, don’t select clothing for them that you know they wouldn’t wear. Every parent wants their children to look their best, but ‘best’ is relative when you have different tastes. For every few clothing items that you know will look great on your kid(s), select something that you know your son or daughter will love to wear. This will help to establish compromise in your relationship, and will let your children know that you trust their judgment. If you show your son or daughter that you encourage their sense of fashion independence (even though you may not agree with it), you may even be able to convince them to wear an outfit or two that you pick out. Remember, there will be plenty of time for your son or daughter to figure out a look that is right for them, so one year of questionable fashion choices isn’t the end of the world. Selecting clothes that you know your child will want to wear also shows that you care about their opinions, and it’s another way to show your support. And, no matter how old your son or daughter is, they’re always going to need your support.

Let your kids pick out your clothes from time to time.

That’s right, I know it sounds scary, but every once in a while, you should ask your child’s opinion on your own clothing. After all, you want your kids to take your fashion advice, right? And, just as much as you want your kids to take your suggestions (fashion and otherwise), your son or daughter needs to know that you respect their opinion. If you can’t decide which tie to wear to work, or are torn between two pairs of pumps, ask your child to help you choose which would be best. More than likely, your kids will include their own personal preferences in their fashion decisions for you, and this will help you to determine how much of your personal opinion you incorporate in the fashion advice you give them. Think about how you feel when your daughter tells you to wear yellow shoes with a brown outfit, or a tie with ‘interesting’ print with a professional suit. Do you feel like they’re taking your personality and comfort levels into consideration? If not, chances are your kids feel the same way when you suggest outfits for them. If you make fashion fun for your kids, you won’t have to worry about running into too many fashion disasters while your children are growing up. Some mishaps are inevitable (hey, we all make mistakes-you didn’t look so great in seventh grade either), but eventually your son or daughter will find themselves-and the perfect clothes to match.

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