Skip to main content

Confidence has a New Look

08/30/2016 06:00 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

Experts say one of the best ways to encourage autonomy, self-esteem and “body positivity”—a term used by counselors and educators that means body confidence—is to let kids choose their own clothes from a young age. Easier said than done. Although children might have strident opinions about their clothing, they don’t always choose well: think parkas in July, tank tops in December, and muddy boots on class picture day. Learning what to wear, when, is a big part of looking and feeling good, and it’s possible to guide kids along the path to making positive wardrobe choices that help them put their best foot forward. Read on for age-by-age guidance.

EARLY YEARS 0-5

Mum’s the word

Teaching kids to feel comfortable in their own skin leads to fewer power struggles over clothing later on, says parent educator Laura Brimberry, MSW, of Raleigh, North Carolina. As toddlers and preschoolers learn to dress themselves, allow as much free choice as you can (even if it means that your four-year-old wears a tutu to preschool) and enact the age-old rule ‘If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.’ The best way to encourage body-positivity in children is not to say much about their body at all, says Brimberry. “Children are hard-wired to love their bodies as to think of their own body as normal, because it’s what they’ve got!” 

Parents can help guide good choices by stashing out-of-season clothing outside your child’s room; establishing a habit of selecting clothing the night before gives children a chance to think through their choices before the morning rush—“Hey, if I wear my rainboots to school tomorrow, I might not be able to run fast in P.E.!”

SCHOOL YEARS 6-12

School rules

School-age kids may begin to encounter messages about ‘modesty,’ sometimes via school dress codes. Parents should tread carefully here, says psychotherapist and parent educator Carmen Cool, MA, of Boulder, Colorado. “The word ‘modesty’ has become synonymous with virtue, purity, and decency, so it can be easy for these messages to feel ‘blamey’ somehow,” she says. And school dress codes and modesty messaging are often gendered—aimed, subtly or not, at young girls—and embedded with sexism and body shame, she notes. Parents can help reframe these messages as issues of boundaries, instead of modesty. 

“We have individual boundaries we agree on as a culture. I encourage asking questions that help children discover what their personal boundaries are and engage in critical thinking about [dress code] rules.” Consistently conveying that there is nothing wrong with their body can help school-agers discover what type of clothing makes them feel good, and learn to equate dressing appropriately with self-respect, rather than covering up for others’ sake.

TEEN YEARS 13-18

Going pro

Teenagers may have a number of reasons to trade their everyday jeans and joggers for sharp professional dress: Job and college interviews, presentations, and school and community banquets, for example. But in our increasingly casual culture, teens may not understand what dressing professionally means, or that fashionably short skirts, sneakers, and athletic attire won’t fly in the professional world. Once again, it’s vital to frame these discussions in terms of respect and appropriateness, rather than a need to cover up, to avoid subtle cues that teens may internalize as body shame, says Cool. 

Ultimately, professional dress is about making sure that people hear what you’re saying, and aren’t distracted by your clothing, for both boys and girls; sloppy, ill-fitting, or too-trendy clothes can be as distracting as wearing a swimsuit to a job interview. Teens who master professional dress have an edge in academics and the workplace, says Brimberry. “People who show up looking clean, sharp, modest are showing respect for the employer and his or her work.”  

Malia Jacobson is an award-winning health and parenting journalist and mom of three. Her latest book is Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades.

Kids, Teens & Tweens, In Print, Today, Today teens kids self esteem confidence dressing nice wardrobe dressing savvy
  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    01/19/2018
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • Aloha Friday

    01/19/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Next Aloha Friday is January 19 at Whirled Pies, 199 W. 8th in Eugene. Social Hour, 5:00-6:00 ...


  • Toys! Historic Playthings from Lane County

    01/20/2018
    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    We all have fond memories of hours spent at play, conjuring up stories and worlds with our toys. ...


  • H2O Today: Opening Weekend

    01/20/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    Dive into the essential nature of water, our planet's lifeblood. H20 Today blends interactive dis...


  • Gnome Roam

    01/20/2018
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Go on a Gnome Roam with Nearby Nature in the Wildflower Hollow! Learn something new about the win...


  • Free Kids Table Tennis

    01/20/2018
    04:45PM

    Free Table Tennis for kids at the Eugene Table Tennis Club. Every Tuesday and Thursday. 4:45-6:15...


  • H2O Today: Opening Weekend

    01/21/2018
    11:00AM — 02:00PM

    Dive into the essential nature of water, our planet's lifeblood. H20 Today blends interactive dis...


It looks like we don't have any events for this date. You can always add an event.

 January 2017 Education Guide

NEW!! Coming in Sept / Oct 2017!!!

 

Weekly Recipes