As parents, one of the most fun aspects of watching our little humans develop is dressing them. Who hasn’t excitedly picked out clothes for their new arrival, dreaming of the little person who will be arriving to fill them?
Once they’re past the baby stage however, you may find that your child quickly discovers their own sense of style. As they begin to push the boundaries and discover who they are and what they like and dislike, so they may naturally be drawn to experiment with clothing as a form of self-expression.
OK, so it may not exactly fit your vision anymore, but watching your children discover their own sense of personal style is one of the great joys of being a parent. Taking them shopping becomes a fun thing to do in summer. Colors, patterns, and shapes are something that we feel drawn to instinctively, almost primally.
We will form strong preferences for one color over another, for the feel of a certain fabric or for stripes over polka dots. What we are drawn to in clothing is intrinsic – something which communicates a complicated set of statements to the world about who we are and who we want to be.
Some children naturally become more aware of fashion and the joy of clothing than others, just as some parents will be more into shopping and styling new looks than others. But all children should be given the opportunity to explore their personalities and their personal preferences with what they wear. If you want to help them get started on this, and you’re interested to see it takes them, you can support them to discover more about their personal style.
Give Them Confidence
Whether you embrace fashion as a means of self-expression or you see it more as a means to an end, if your child wants to develop a sense of themselves as in individual by wearing those checkerboard Vans or that Camp Half-Blood t-shirt, then you can support them as part of a wider issue – helping your child to gain confidence in their own opinions and tastes.
Whatever your view on fashion, that has a real value. There can be a sense of accomplishment that children get from dressing according to their own creative vision – and if that means a cowboy hat and sneakers paired with a tutu and a sports top then so be it! For younger children, choosing their own outfits can also encourage them with the physical process of getting dressed themselves.
This gives their motor skills a boost and further adds to their self-confidence, as they have achieved something new. You can help this along the way. Instead of battling them over what they wear, pick out a selection of options that you’d be happy with, and let them pick from that edit.
That way, they still feel like they have control whereas you get to input a little bit of practicality into their choices. Assist by making sure there are plenty of options which are easy to pull on without any unnecessarily complicated fastenings.
You could also try letting them have a bit more of a freer reign at the weekends when there isn’t so much time pressure to get out the door and you don’t end up stressed and yelling at them. Kids can come up with some pretty creative combinations, so unless they are wildly impractical, try to relax a little and go with the flow!
Talk About Fashion
Encourage their interest by starting a dialogue about fashion with your children. Ask their opinions when out shopping, and point out different combinations.
Discuss how certain factors affect what we wear – the weather, the location we are in and what we will be doing that day. Then ask about their own taste – what colors are they drawn to? Are there certain patterns or styles which make them happy? How do certain clothes make them feel when they put them on? Are there things they especially like to wear? What about what they don’t like to wear?
Get them thinking about concepts like silhouette and identifying complementary colors. These simple concepts can really help them to explore what they are drawn to and start teaching them about fashion in a gentle but intelligent way.
Lessons about fashion can also be integrated into other learning kids are doing – talk of balance and proportion might be mathematical but is also the ideal context to talk about clothing as well, while art provides a natural background to talk about design concepts. It’s also fun to think about messaging and imagery with your children – what does a certain look communicate to the world?
Set Your Boundaries
Although all this talk of fashion is fun, an early discussion of the subject of clothing gives you the chance to set some limits early on, before you are managing rebellious teen behavior.
Take the opportunity to establish the fact that you have the final say on what gets worn outside of the house, as the parent in charge. Talk about the need to be age and weather appropriate. Try to be permissive within those hard limits. Creativity flourishes best with children when there is freedom but ultimately also some kind of boundary–that’s what they rely on you for.
If you don’t like a look they come up with, ask yourself why. Is it just a matter of personal taste? If the outfit is not totally impractical to be worn out the house or wildly inappropriate but you still don’t like it, you should probably let it slide and recognize that it’s just a difference in taste.
If it’s a special family occasion or something where anything too wild wouldn’t work, then use the old trick of giving some options that are acceptable, and allowing your child to choose between those. After all, you don’t want to end up with them in Spiderman pyjamas and wellies at a wedding! You can use the opportunity to talk about how we dress can show respect for others, too.
Take Note Of Fashion Trends
True style is about wearing what suits you and feeling comfortable in it, but it’s also about having fun with trends. Exploring these with your children can not only be huge amounts of fun, and give a very insightful peek into their thought process but it can also help a child to feel more comfortable in their social environment. Whether they choose to blend in or to stand out is up to them!