herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Parent Zone: 'How can I teach my 12-year-old that expensive clothes aren't important?'

Teen clothes shopping
Teen clothes shopping

A teenager who likes the finer things in life and a little girl who wants to wear inappropriate clothes are amongst this week's problems

Q: My 12-year-old girl is looking for more costly and up-to-the-minute clothes as she wants to keep up with fashionable friends who have rich parents. Is there any way I can teach her that wearing expensive clothes is not important so that I don't become utterly bankrupt?

It's time to learn how to say "No" and mean what you say. It is amazing how many parents want to give everything to their children even when they can't afford it.

Unfortunately, we are not all affluent. Fortunately, we are not all in a mad rush to buy designer gear we do not need. I sympathise with your situation.

It is only natural for children to want the things they see their friends wearing. It is not your daughter's fault. She is a child and is bound to be lured into wanting stylish clothes like her friends are wearing.

Maybe the part solution to your situation will be in teaching your child about fashion and how to accessorise her outfits. Fashion is not confined to the realm of designer clothes. A sense of fashion can be developed with inexpensive clothing.

It may be possible to get some books about fashion from the library. These books should be aimed at the young teen age range.

They will probably teach your child how to dress stylishly and with flair. You and her can go on a shopping outing into town and look at clothes in various shop windows. Once you see something that she likes you can walk around with her and find similar items at a proper price.

There is more at stake here than simply fashion sense. You are teaching your child about budgets, how to shop, how to manage money and how to look good and feel good within an affordable budget. At her age she would have few skills in the area of money management and you now have an entry route to teach here these skills.

Of course wearing expensive clothes is not important but she can't be expected to know that at her age. It is up to you to teach her those skills and to help her grow into a confident adult who feels good, looks good and has the confidence not to run with the crowd but instead be her own person.

It takes time and patience but look at the big picture and the opportunity you have to help her learn about life.

Q: I have a six-year-old girl. Our issue is her clothes and hair - she feels that they don't feel like they are ever tight enough.

Pants, leggings, trousers etc, all have to be rolled up on her waist to be extra snug. The straps of her shoes are never tight enough, her hair is never up tight enough in her pony tail.

Any suggestions, as it can get frustrating trying to dress her?

This sounds as though it is a sensory issue. By that I mean your child has heightened sensations that cause her to want to feel clothing tight on her. Sensory integration issues are more common than believed and occur across a number of spectrums, from normal child development to intellectual disabilities and on to the autistic spectrum.

I am not saying your child has any of these conditions but I want to highlight the fact that sensory issues can result in just the behaviours your are describing.

Children can be either over-sensitive to sensory input or under-sensitive. It sounds as though your daughter is under-sensitive. She craves excess pressure. This is because her brain is not able to register the normal bodily pressure sensation. It is only when things are unusually tight that her brain can register them.

For your daughter this is not necessarily a big problem. She feels more comfortable that way and is fine with it. Your frustration is in trying to dress her.

I suggest you begin to talk with her about this and ask her if there are any things she can do herself to make her clothes feel more comfortable. That way you will be out of the equation at least some of the time.

The most practical thing to begin to ponder is whether or not this behaviour is causing her any difficulty in her life. Is she able to play with and get along well with other children?

Does she have friends? Is she doing well in school? Has her teacher noticed any unusual behaviours in the classroom or on break time? If all these areas of her life are fine, there is no reason to be concerned about her.

If problems have arisen it may be useful to have an assessment completed by an occupational therapist with specialisation in sensory integration disorder.

Remember, some children have sensory issues who do not have developmental disabilities. For them the solution is to try and provide them with what they need. I do not think you have any reason to be terribly concerned.

Monitor the situation, see how she grows and develops, be watchful for any signs of difficulty and take it one step at a time.

 

David is a psychologist; send your questions to davidcarey@herald.ie

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