Girls’ Dresscode

Dear Sharon,

We’re parents of an adolescent girl who is pressuring us to accept her contemporary fashion choices. We object strongly to the look that’s coming out of the “music/fashion/tabloid” industries that’s prompting our lovely youngster to adopt a look, of what, in my time, would have been an ideal costume for a streetwalker. How do we keep our personal standards operating in such a climate? She wants to be accepted and to feel comfortable with her peers, but I don’t want her wearin g clothes that are so revealing and provocative, nor do we want her to be tattooing and piercing various parts of her anatomy. Britney Spears and her ilk are not my ideas of role models for preteen and teenage girls. I am a liberated woman, but good taste and sensibility seem to be non-existent these days. Instead of liberation and being taken seriously, it seems to me that the present trend is to place our girls smack back into the sex kitten role that we worked hard to eliminate. I don’t want my daughter to be a “Lolita”. How do we deal with this?

Concerned Parents

Dear Concerned Parents,

You are not alone in your concerns, the pressure on girls and women to be valued for their bodies instead of their thoughts and aspirations is an age old story. As you mention îed in your question, your teenage daughter has unfortunately designed her new dress code with the help of an overly commercialized and sexualized society. This powerful influence is particularly worrisome as it begins to target girls at very young ages. The often cited low self esteem of preadolescent and adolescent girls is in part due to this media generated pressure.

As you tackle this issue with your teen remember that talking to girls about their appearance can be a “landmine” of a topic and will take time to sort through. Don’t give up on sharing your thoughts, but as you both work it through give her time to state hers as well

Here are some things to remember and do that might help.

1) You are a full generation older than your daughter. I know it is hard to understand that we are at least as “uncool” as our parents were but it is true. I can remember shocking my mother with what I wore, I am sure I am not alone. We are just like every other generation of parents and can have a hard time relating to styles and ideas that are an integral part of our children’s everyday lives. Set aside some time to listen to what your daughter thinks about her dress and what she likes about it. She is probably right about at least some of it.

2) Make a point of talking to other parents of teenage girls and get information about what they think about this issue and what they have tried to do about it. Don’t limit the conversations to people who agree with your perspective. Hearing different ideas can reduce worry, help you think of new strategies, and build up your confidence so you don’t give up trying to figure it out. Simply knowing that other people are trying too helps a great deal.

3) Spend more and more quality time with your daughter as she gets older. In spite of whatever your daughter’s mood swings say to you she is desperate for your help in figuring this out. Recent studies on teens show again and again that the more time and energy parents put into their teens, the better able they are to sort through the myriad of pressures they confront every day. Time and energy can take many forms.
Listen as much as you can to her thoughts and emotions about just about anything.

Go places on her terms (even if that means a lot of shopping – you can set a money limit before you go) This can help her remember you are on her side and not just a critic of her generation’s sensibilities. w It will also give you a chance to slow down and learn more about the reasons for her likes and dislikes. Spending an hour or two in the teen section of a clothing store can be excruciating but very informative.
Be ready to drop everything you are doing no matter what time of day or night if she feels like talking (All topics are important: clothes, hair, boys, friends, music, ……..)

4) You have a right to set limits on sexual attire. Teenagers need a shoulder to lean on as well as a firm voice that is willing to set limits even if there is a slammed door, tears and the battle cry of “nobody else’s parents are doing this.” You get to set the standards for your family. Of course it is important to remember that those standards make more sense and last longer if you able to accomplish points 1 – 4.

Thanks for submitting this very important question.