The image of a teenager is ever evolving. Each era has specific issues; three teenage habits may have secretly driven them all. While teenagers in eras past dressed for peace, national support or popularity, all of them were prey to the instable thoughts of adolescence. The teenager dresses to and for their peers in order to create an identity for themselves. Achieving this identity happens in any combination of three habits: mirroring, twinning and competition.
Following these trends is not solely negative; the depth of self-esteem perceived is the important factor. Knowing the true strength of your teen’s ego will help you access whether these three habits are detrimental or not.
Children and teens who covet the clothing, hairstyle and possessions of their friends and classmates are mirroring them. They perceive that looking like a more popular peer will improve their self-esteem or status. A child with a solid sense of self-worth is in no danger from this behavior. Stress to your children before they become teens that their own individuality is important. Fitting into a crowd may be socially acceptable and your child may feel most comfortable there; however, just be mindful that they do not lose their own personality in a crowd mentality.
Does your teen appear to be loosing their individuality to a more dominant friend or peer group? This is twinning, when mirroring becomes negative. Drawing an identity from a more established or popular individual bolsters the self-esteem of any teenager. However, it is crucial to address this slippery slope early on. Your teenage son or daughter may not even be aware that twinning is happening; from their perspective, they just desire acceptance from that person. This is much like an infant/mother relationship. The infant imitates the mother to gain encouragement and positive growth. This behavior could negatively influence a teenager. Stressing to your teen that individual identity is healthy and fulfilling will help them grow into a mature individual instead of becoming a lackey. While not all twinning is this dangerous, the importance of individual identity is no less important.
This teenager has taken the idea of individual identity beyond healthy limits. This boy or girl wishes to be the center of attention at all times, regardless positive or negative. They will constantly try to one up their friends in clothing choices. This could be in price, sexuality or independence. Teenagers are constantly seeking attention from peers and adults. The signs of excessive attention seekers could appear in radical clothing changes. This teen could have underlying issues causing them to act out. Insecurity, absentee parents or low self-esteem and depression could all be factors. A teen displaying competitive behavior when it comes to clothing should be questioned lovingly by a parent or peer about those choices. Helping them know that they are seen and heard helps them settle into a comfortable place.
Overall, be mindful of what your teenage son or daughter wears when they walk out the door. What message are they sending you and their peers? If that message is disturbing or unclear, ask them about it in a non-confrontational manner. Ultimately, you, as the parent, have control of the clothes your child purchases and wears. Be mindful and open with your teen. Open communication throughout the adolescent years will help them mature into individual adults with the skill sets they need to succeed.