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Forefront families by Sally Burgess; What Really Defines Us?; www.forefrontfamilies.org

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How far have we come during the last 70 years in regards to the dictates of fashion?  I wonder if we realize just how much we are influenced by clothing trends?  The big sell, of course, is the idea that others judge who we are by what we are wearing.  Yes, I know first impressions count, but first impressions are only skin-deep. 

Even before the age of TV, the ‘haves’ stood out markedly from the ‘have- nots’ by the expression of their wealth – their stuff.  They had the latest gadgets and wore the ‘coolest’ fashions.  They could afford the real furs, the best cuts of meat, the best entertainment and the most luxurious living conditions, while poor folks worked many hours, in often appalling conditions, trying to make ends meet.

It has become engrained in us over the centuries that the definition of success stems from being good looking, being wealthy (including wearing the latest fashions), being an ‘A’ grade academic student in school or being in the top team in a particular sport.  Guess what?  That accounts for approximately 10% of the population.  What about the rest of us?

Fashion trends are thrown at us from every side – through the media and in the stores.  I have no idea who dreams up what ‘the look’ will be for the next season, but who of us dares to stand against this fashion dictatorship?  We all seem to just get swept along with it.

What about kids and fashion?  Where are the cute little baby hand-knitted jackets and dresses, fondly knitted by grandmother (me!)?  They are nowhere to be seen.  All babies these days seem to be dressed as baby teens or baby adults!  Once kids get to 4-5 years of age and up they really start noticing what they and others are wearing.  Kids’ programs show them what they should be wearing, what their lunch boxes and back packs should look like, the best cereals and snacks they should eat and what toys would give them the most fun.

How do we, as parents, approach this avalanche of fashion and shopping trends?  Should our kids be able to demand and get the latest and greatest of everything?  Should we give in to our children’s relentless requests for name-brand products?  Are we powerless to say, ‘NO’ for fear of their ire or rejection?  Where does it stop?  Where should it stop? 

The answer lies in the terms ‘common sense’ and ‘strong values’.  Our kids need to understand that what a person looks like on the outside does not necessarily make them cool, successful or happy on the inside.  For that reason our children need to be taught that integrity, honesty, loyalty, forgiveness, trust, respect, obedience and charity are the characteristics that really define us.  These traits will see through the fickleness of fashion, and concentrate on what matters most – our hearts.

So, how do we deal with the everyday demands of ‘coolness’?  Common sense has to kick in.  Kids shouldn’t be able to make up an endless Christmas wish list and expect you to fill it.  They need to be taught the value of money from an early age.  It starts with explaining that you can only afford ‘x’ amount for each child’s gifts, and let them decide from their list how much they can get with that money.  They need to hear and understand the word, ‘NO’ sometimes.

When it comes to fashion trends, again you can tell your tweens and teens there is only so much you can spend on their clothing.  Make up a list of ‘must haves’ and other important clothing.  Let them make choices on how they spend their clothing money.  If they run out, take them to Walmart or Goodwill to make their choices.  Don’t waiver under pressure. 

You not only need to evaluate the cost of clothing and toys your kids want, but also evaluate the impact.  In regards to clothing, kids need to be appropriately dressed for their age and stage.  The impact of kids wearing inappropriate clothing can be devastating and they need that explained clearly.  The impact of giving them what they want, when they want (indulgence) is that kids do not learn to value their stuff. 

As kids grow older they need to learn to appreciate that ‘stuff’ doesn’t make the man/woman.  Strong character traits are life long identity builders.  At any time ‘stuff’ can be taken away, but little can remove true happiness or joy when their mind is controlled by common sense and strong values rather than silly dictates of fashion.

If you have any comments or suggestions on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact us at sally@forefrontfamilies.org, or check out our website at www.forefrontfamilies.org, or you can visit our blogsite at www.forefrontfamilies.blogspot.com.

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