It’s PROM Season! What’s a girl to Wear?
Even as we’ve started Prom Season and juniors and seniors are excitedly looking for and purchasing their gorgeous dresses, there’s been an ongoing discussion in the news about “cut outs” and “crop tops” and “bare backs.” Generally what is appropriate for a girl to wear?
I’ve listened to discussions where parents vehemently refuse to allow their daughters to wear “those clothes” as they put it, because they send the wrong message. One mom on Good Morning America said she has chosen to pick her battles, and it is not such a big deal. We have had heated discussions at home and with friends, with people being on either side of the debate. Some dads don’t want their daughters to wear “cut outs” because it makes the girls appear “too sexy” and come across to the opposite sex as asking for unwanted advances. Others say parents should teach their sons and daughters about how to behave in public, and the question of possible rape or abuse will not even arise because there will be mutual respect.
I partially agree with the mom on Good Morning America, about picking one’s battles, but a lot of work should have been done before that, so your child is able to make informed and wise choices. Parents do need to realize that rules without explanation or respect leads to disobedience. You can’t mandate what your child should wear without first explaining why or why not to her. The “Because I said so” answer generally does not work in the teenage years.
So in a culture where the trends and fashions and attitudes our teens see in the media is what they want to live by, what is a parent to do?
1. Communication is key
Before we ever even come to the discussion of whether or not to wear the “cut out” gown, it is essential that you actually have a relationship with your child, one in which there is mutual honesty and understanding. Parents can lay down the law, but it’s still up to the teen to follow that law, and they are more likely to do so if they have a genuine relationship with you.
2. Teach Self Respect
Teach your teens to love and respect themselves, that alone plays a vital role in how your teens choose to dress. If they are confident in themselves, they know that they don’t have to overexpose themselves to look beautiful and they won’t feel the need to do that just to seek attention. There are still lots of clothes with “cut outs” that are very decently made and really quite beautiful and are not provocative. A lot really rides on how your child chooses to carry herself in public. Parents should realize that teens don’t need to wear “cut outs” or revealing clothes to as they say, “send the wrong message.” Teenage boys should learn about respecting themselves and their partners, and treating them well. Girls should learn self- love and self respect as well as what constitutes appropriate manners and behavior.
3. Teach your teens to be worldly-wise
Discuss the dangers teens are likely to face even as they become more independent. Discuss the dangers of rape, date rape drugs and other illicit drugs, and underage drinking. These are real problems and we as parents need to equip our teens with the tools to deal with the numerous “invitations” they will have to participate. Listen to your teens. What are their views? Why do they hold those views? Then explain to them why you may have the opposing or similar views. Talk about how they can say “No”, even if it means losing a friend because they don’t want to do drugs with them. Talk about the dangers of underage drinking. Remember this is never a one and done kind of discussion. It is ongoing. More teens get into trouble from underage drinking and illicit drug use, than from how they are dressed.
4. Be realistic
Whether we like it or not, teens do want to dress like their peers and keep up with fashion trends. It is not a competition but it’s a fact that teens like to fit in with their peers. Under your direction, they can still do so, decently. I have spoken to teens who have hidden clothes in their friend’s cars and houses because their parents don’t want to see them is certain attire. They will leave home dressed well and go to where their clothes are stashed to change and wear the clothes anyway. “Pick your battles!” Wouldn’t you rather prefer your teen to be honest with you and perhaps listen to you as you help her realize she can tweak her outfit ever so slightly, whilst still being fashionable and dignified, versus your teen pretending with you and going out there to live a completely different life. This eventually erodes trust and it does not have to be this way.
I’m not encouraging parents to allow their teens to wear whatever they want, whenever they want it. This should be a “win win” for parents, teens and their schools. Teach about self-respect and self-esteem. It will help them in the choices they make. Teach them how to behave and the risks involved in indulging in underage drinking and illicit drug use. When all is said and done, it doesn’t really matter what your teens wear to the PROM, for them to have a good time. It’s all about the excitement of dressing up, with you beaming beside them. The excitement of the pictures they take at home and with their friends whether they go in groups or with their dates. It’s about friendships and laughter and the memories they have. The best fun is good clean fun, with good friends and and the love and respect they have for each other.