Pressure on Teens to Wear Fashionable Clothes

By Rosenya Faith
Friends walking out of a shoe store with shopping bags.
Friends walking out of a shoe store with shopping bags.

While you're concerned with getting your teen safely through high school, he's probably more concerned with what to wear tomorrow. Peer pressure certainly isn’t a new fad, but it is a form of passive bullying that is counterproductive to your teen’s development of self-worth and self-confidence. You might not be able to eliminate the influence from his peer group or the media but you can help your teen learn to value himself instead of his wardrobe and show off that he’s already a cut above the rest.

Copycats and Identity Struggles

If your teen reads magazines, watches TV or goes to the movies, her fashion choices are persistently influenced by popular media. As she flips through a teen magazine, four out of every five advertisements incorporate popular fashion and beauty, explains the American Academy of Pediatric's article "Teen Magazines and Their Effect on Girls." And if she doesn’t instantly head to the mall to imitate the look, she’ll be there shortly when her friends and peer group show up in copycat attire. She’s susceptible to outside pressure right now because the teen years are fraught with a struggle toward personal identity – she’s constantly trying to figure out who she is amid a vicious need for peer acceptance.

Starting Young

Long before your child becomes a teen, his level of self-confidence is taking shape. If you want your teen to wear what he wants -- not what the latest music star is sporting -- he’ll need some armor ahead of time. Start praising him for his uniqueness at an early age, recognizing his individual qualities and encouraging him to value those qualities too. Teach him to be his own person and to look for friends who accept him for who he is and what he has to offer a relationship. While a healthy dose of self-esteem won’t make your teen immune to the fashion influence of friends, peers and the media, it will give him strength to resist -- there’s less need to blend in when you stand out for being your best.

Lines of Communication

During the teen years, your child will rely more heavily on the advice and input from friends and peers, but that doesn’t mean your voice is muted. Keep the lines of communication open by providing your teen with a nonjudgmental environment. Encourage her to chat about the big stuff and the small stuff alike – show an interest in all aspects of her life, not just the problematic ones. When she makes requests in fashion and other areas, don't automatically say no. Instead, explain the reasoning behind your concerns. For example, when she wants the same tattoo featured prominently on her favorite actress' buttocks, explain your concerns about the pain involved and the chemicals in the dyes used. When she can come to you without fear of judgment, you’re building an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Stand Firm or Sit Down

There are times when you can budge and others that just cross a line. Don't be afraid to let your teen know the limits when it comes to revealing clothing or apparel with derogatory messages. However, if the latest boy band has your teen and his group wearing bell bottoms and muscle shirts, this might not be the best battle for standing your ground. Every generation likes clothing that the previous generation can't stand -- remember back to your last fashion hissy fit at home. Fortunately, though, if the bell bottoms cost more than you make in a week, you don’t have to fork out the cash. Help your teen budget his allowance and earn money from other sources -- a valuable lesson in itself -- and then he can determine whether the pressure to wear those bell bottoms is worth handing over his paycheck.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.