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Real Talk Real Issues Real Parenting Series What to wear?
by Steve Thomas 
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Real talk seriesÖclothes
From the kidís eyes

I donít know what to wear! Iím not sure why that statement is so irritating to my parents. But it is. Am I not explaining it right? Do they believe that I am mad at them, or unhappy with something theyíve done? Let me explain.

I have a closet full of clothes. I am happy that my parents bought me clothes. I know that everybody doesnít have what I have. I get that. But my clothes can be divided into 3 categories:

Clothes for church. These clothes cannot be worn to the movies or outside to play. They have a specific purpose, and I wear them when Iím supposed to.

Clothes for play. These are all of my old clothes and torn clothes that I cannot wear any place else. But I cannot wear them out in public. I have a limited opportunity to wear these clothes. If somebody is coming over or if I am out where neighbors can see me, then I canít wear them.

Clothes for school. This represents the majority of my clothes, and my problems. My parents want me to dress like Iím dressing for a job interview. Everything has to be pressed, I have to wear belts; clothes cannot be too tight. I am severely limited in what I can wear, and how I can wear it. It gets worse!

How we dress draws a lot of attention. Itís not just the designer labels and well known styles, itís how I wear them. It eliminates most of the clothes that are in my closet! My clothes are either too generic or donít wear right. I donít want my parents to think Iím ungrateful. I am grateful. But Iím under a lot of pressure too! I donít want people looking at me and how I dress for all the wrong reasons. Who do I disappoint? Do I disappoint my parents with my concerns, or did I agonize in a classroom full of people that are examining my every move, and passing judgment on me every day?

I know that the Bible says that I should not judge, and that how I judge is how I will be judged, but it doesnít stop people from judging me. There are very few worse feelings than having someone look at you, from head to toe, from hairstyle to shoe selection, smirking or making mental notes. There are few things worse than knowing people or laughing at you, or being the only one in a class without a certain kind of shirt.

I want so bad to talk about it, but I donít know how to put it without sounding like an ungrateful kid. In my mind, I have approached my parents about this a thousand times. I have told them about my issue, and they understand. I have cried about my problems, and they have given me a hug and helped. Iíve told them, and they smiled and took me out to buy more clothes. It has happened that way in my mind, but Iím too afraid to really talk about it.

I hint at it; and I get sighs and frowns. Who do I talk to about it? My friends are in the same boat as I am, or they just dress like theyíre crazy. Their parents? Some of their parents just let them where what they want. Some of my friends have parents who wear the same clothes as they do. I donít know who to ask.

My problems even follow me to church. I see kids in jeans and t-shirts, and I feel like Iím overdressed. Even my Sunday School teachers are dressing more comfortable. I feel like the only person in the world that is dressing like their headed off to negotiate a business deal; is me.
Today is my day! Iím going to sit down and have ďthe talk.Ē Itís funny; I know my parents care about me. I know that they want to be good parents. I know that they are good parents, but this is one area that they just do not understand. One day, I hope that they will. Today though, I have worked up the courage to talk about it.

Wish me luck!

From the eyes of a parent

I cringe every time I go to that school! I see so many young men and women who are dressed like they are going out to party. Worse yet, their parents are dressed like theyíre going to the same party. There is more flesh exposed than there is covered! I look at them and can only shake my head. They are making my job tougher. I want to pull alongside their car and scream! On behalf of all parents, cut it out! It is not okay for you to dress like you do.

My kids donít say anything with their mouths; but they say it with their eyes. With every person we pass who is dressed less than appropriately, they look at me, and then back at them. With their eyes they are saying: why is it right for them and wrong for me? Why canít I dress like everybody else? Why are you punishing me?

I want to tell them: look, I can only worry about my kids; I canít raise theirs. I cannot make them make their children dress appropriately. I cannot send them back home when they donít look right. I donít want to put my kids in a bad spot, but I have a job to do. I have to prepare them for the world. I have to make sure that they capitalize on every advantage that they have. I have to teach them about mentoring and interviews and mentoring and how clothes; how they dress, impact all of those things. Is it too much too fast?

The stores that sell clothes are no help either. Everything is either too tight or too short. The clothes are not what I would call ďChristianĒ wear. In fact, we struggle to find any store that has clothes that reflect values, but how do I tell my kid that? How do I tell my kid that we have to go from store to store and shop because nothing that I see is right? I get frustrated, because the clothes arenít appropriate. The kids develop a complex, because they feel awkward when I tell them that the clothes do not look right.

We try the clothes on; I cringe at how revealing they are, and tell them that it doesnít work. I feel bad for them, because I sense their frustration. I have no options though. I refuse to join the long line of parents that have compromised.

I am frustrated, but not with my kid. My frustration is with this change that has seemingly happened overnight. I am frustrated by the fact that nobody makes kids clothes for kids. I am frustrated that clothing has become a source of division for me and my kid. I know that my frustration comes out when we talk about it. I sometimes fear that my kids think itís them. I know they think that I am not sympathetic. I am. I wish that all schools had uniforms; but they donít. I wish there was a class on how to dress; but they arenít any. It is now beginning to drive a wedge between us, and I canít let that happen. Itís time for us to talk.

Iíve tried just about every approach. Iíve tried the; ďwell, how about if we just donít buy you anythingĒ approach. Iíve come at my kids with the: ďyou should be happy, I didnít get any clothes when I was a kidĒ approach. Iíve tried the: ďmy money; my decisionĒ approach. Iíve even tried the: ďdo you really want go out of the house looking like that?Ē approach. None of these approaches have had the desired outcome. None are really appropriate.

Before talking, I do my homework. I read my Bible study lesson and take notes. I know that I have to train up my child; I know that if I spare (chastening) rod, then I am creating the very problem that Iím trying to resolve. I know that part of honoring thy mother and father is to honor them in speak, and in dress, but how do I convey that message to a kid?

Iíve asked my precious little ones to bring the clothes that they plan on wearing to school. This is my conversation starter.

First, I pray;
Heavenly Father; I pray that you would help me to find the right words to help my children. I pray that you would help my children understand what it means to be Godly. I pray that you help me to be a better example in what I say, what I do, how I act, how I dress, and how I live. I pray that you strengthen my children during this difficult period of their lives. I pray that you would give them the strength they need to overcome the worldly challenges that they face every day. I pray that what I say today is endorsed by you, and that it would be a blessing to them
In Jesus name

A Blessing to and for our children

Situations like these are why God made parents. The issue, though not about our children, directly impacts them. In this instance, a parent has to introduce things that a child may not fully understand.

The parentís plan needs to contain the following:

A spirit of empathy. A few years ago, we were the ones wearing the clothes that were not acceptable

A spirit of compassion. It is difficult to be different; especially in your pre teen or teen years.

A complimentary spirit. We should spend more time complimenting our kids in this area, especially when they dress as we like. When Jesus was baptized, God announced that He was well pleased with His son. We should do no less.

A Christian network. The more ďlivingĒ examples of people who you believe dress appropriately, the more of them that you can point your child to, the more clear and easier your discussion becomes.

This is a topic that clearly has great benefits down the road. There are a number of adult challenges that young people must embrace, even before becoming adults. As parents, we must set the tone and define Christianity and Christian living for our kids. Christian living cannot be limited to the Sunday school room in the church.

We, as parents, must make it live! We must make it live in our homes, and in our lifestyles.
Itís about God; itís about us

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