4 Things I'm Teaching My Kids About Personal Style
As a personal stylist, I'm highly attuned to the influence personal style can have on people's confidence and the messages they send to the world. As a parent, I want my 5 year old son and my daughter, aged 8, to embrace their body types and feel confident to express themselves through their clothing choices now and into the future.
So here are 4 things I’m teaching my kids about personal style.
What we choose to wear tells the world about us
I’ve let my kids from an early age choose what they want to wear each day. I love talking with my kids about how clothing can make us feel all sorts of emotions; like we’re part of a team; or identify culture or heritage. But even at their young ages, they get that clothing can help other people understand what we like, dislike and can show the world the type of person we want to be. Whether that’s a professional soccer player, an inventor or a famous artist, I’ve been sure to instil in them early the notion that how we present ourselves can influence society’s thoughts about us.
Confidence in your personal style means embracing your body type and acknowledging what you love about it
As a stylist, I’ve spent time with hundreds of women talking about their body shape. Through these interactions, I’ve learned what a strong influence our mothers have on our own body image. The swishy skin around my tummy is a hot topic of conversation in our household at the top and tail ends of the day when dressing and undressing occurs. When my son asks, ‘Why is your tummy like that?’ I’m conscious to not dismiss the question or assume a negative tone (despite how I might be feeling about it that day!). Instead I opt for the truth – that human bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and they are designed to change shape as they age. In the case of my own body, I tell him my stomach and its skin stretched to carry him and his sister before they were born, and that makes me very happy.
Questions and concerns about body shapes and features (from both boys and girls) are common in young children. In having positive conversations with my children about my own body and its natural changes, and their body types and their innate qualities, I’m hopefully helping them to positively frame changes in their own bodies as they get older.
The media can have a big effect on what we feel we should wear (but it doesn’t have to)
Whether we like it or not our children are growing up in a world where people (mostly women) and their personalities and skills are so often judged by what they wear. From royalty to pop stars, the amount of media attention focused on clothing choice is something I find staggering (and I like talking about clothing and fashion, clearly!).
In my opinion, I think it is important for children of both sexes to understand that double standards do exist when it comes to the media’s portrayal of confidence, trust and beauty. But I also want to train their critical eye (and critical thinking skills) to look beyond the conversation about clothing choice where it is irrelevant.
Although not far away my children (particularly my daughter) are not yet old enough to be too influenced by the media and their peers about body image or the clothes they wear. But this will change soon (probably sooner than I hope!) and so in anticipating its arrival, I’m arming myself with age-appropriate feedback on how to identify clothing that makes them feel confident and at ease with themselves rather than trying to appeal to others.
Style is about self-expression, but some choices are inappropriate in particular situations
I don’t think kids are ever too young to understand social standards when it comes to what to wear. When my kids get dressed in the morning, there is always a conversation about the weather and what is appropriate to wear that day (and living in Melbourne, it could be a completely different forecast to the day before!).
I like to remind them that what we choose to wear is as much about self-respect for ourselves as it is about respect for others. Consider when they are expected to dress neatly for someone else’s special occasion, or perhaps when they are required to wear a school uniform that comes with a strict grooming standard.
Right now, I’m choosing to hold back from feedback or critiquing about their respective clothing choices unless what they wear is impractical for the weather or the social activity. Far from wanting to crush their right to self-expression through their clothing choices, talking about what is appropriate or inappropriate from a young age can help guide their own choices as they become more independent.
My hope is that by introducing these concepts to them early, I am laying the groundwork for my children to understand how their personal style can not only be a fantastic avenue for self-expression, but can affect their self-esteem and body confidence, and can also send a powerful message about themselves to the (rather critical) world on their behalf.
12/8/16, 11:45 AM
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