I recently went to a bat mitzvah for a friend’s daughter. It was beautifully done. However, I was pretty surprised to see that many of the 12- and 13-year-old girls at the party were wearing high heels and very, very short dresses. I don’t mean to sound prudish, but I believe that how you dress sends a message – whether you mean for it to or not.
Of course, I know that young girls are eager to look older, and I recognize that they want to mimic the outfits that they see in pop culture, but does that mean we should let them?
This, in some ways, is not a new battle. Do you remember, as a teen, being told to go back upstairs and change? I do. Of course, what complicates our parenting today is that our kids’ questionable clothing choices – which can send an unintended message – are often captured in selfies that live forever on social media and can be viewed by countless others, possibly strangers.
So, I think it’s important to have conversations with our kids about what kind of message they’re sending with what they wear and what they post.
Here are some ways that I do it, with my patients and my own (tween) kids.
1. Perception is powerful. What you wear, the company you keep and how you act creates a perception. And that perception can become larger than reality.
2. Posting: what, where, and how? Talk to your kids about what they are posting, which media site they are doing it on, and who they are sharing it with. Agree on some general rules and monitor these rules together. Encourage your kids to always be thoughtful about what they post and how it could be interpreted.
3. Be present, no matter what. The other day, I was exhausted after a long day at work. All I wanted to do was lay in front of the television, but when my son said – in a serious tone – “I need to talk to you,” I knew I couldn’t postpone that conversation. When your tween/teen wants to talk, put everything else aside and listen. Building that bond and letting them know that you’re there for them will help you get over those bumps in the road that are inevitable for all of us.