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RIGHT CLOTHES ARE GREAT ARMOR FOR KIDS

SHARE RIGHT CLOTHES ARE GREAT ARMOR FOR KIDS

Typical late-summer scenario in the department store: Mom's trying to dress everybody for school without wrecking the budget. She's stressed.

The kids are convinced everyone will laugh at them if they wear her choices. They're depressed.It's a big hit on the pocketbook and on the family's well-being.

It doesn't have to be that way, says the chairman of the department of clothing and textiles at Brigham Young University, Char-lene Lind.

Clothes-shopping for school can be a wonderful opportunity to open up the lines of communication and discover each other, said Lind. In fact, it's absolutely essential that such communication occurs if the relationship is to survive something as potentially mine-ridden as school clothes shopping.

Without it, a child may lose a great chance to experience a boost to his or her fragile self-esteem at a time when peer acceptance is critical. Or the parent may push the child away over an issue as simple as fabric to save a few dollars.

"Parents and other adults who work closely with children and adolescents would do well to `try to remember,' said Lind, quoting herself from an article published in the Family Perspective magazine in 1991.

"We can say with assurance that clothing is integrally involved in issues important to families such as gender role development, social acceptance, the development of the self concept and parent-child conflict."

Lind quoted from a variety of sources whose conclusion is that clothing influences how a teenager feels about himself.

Research on feelings of deprivation found teenagers counted not having the right kinds of clothes more seriously than not having enough.

"Clothing seems to make a fair amount of difference," Lind said in an interview this week with The Deseret News. "It seem to be most important to the 13-15 year-olds. They hit these feelings at different times. It does seem to dim as we get into adulthood." But even adults follow group patterns, such as men beginning to dress more casually at work.

Clothing also buys a teenager acceptance into a particular group - whether it be the preppies, the skaters, the stoners, whatever. Some worry more about that than others, of course.

Lind said that is really nothing new. She recalls needing a particular expensive sweater to fit in when she was in high school.

"The people closest to the child need to read that child. They will tell you if this is really a big deal or not."

Generally, if the item the child wants is very important, they'll be willing to help pay for it or work to get it. That may help in situations where the parent thinks the price is too much.

She doesn't believe parents should be inflexible about a child's decisions or desires. Even gang-style clothing shouldn't scare a parent. In the West, baggy pants and loose shirts are a fashion look as much as a gang identification, she said.

Again, Lind stressed the key is to know the child well enough to know what's going on. "Parents need to stay tuned. Listen. Look outside the wardhouse and the neighborhood. Look around in the world. Watch and see what they're reading."

If they don't read the groups and dress accordingly, they don't get accepted. They engineer their appearance to get accepted, said Lind. Its a relatively harmless way to eliminate one potential source of embarrassment.

"Clothing should not be a big deal, and if we can make it less of a big deal, the kids can worry about more important issues," said Lind. "In some ways, clothing is a very safe way to rebel."