Way we dress conveys messages

As we return to school in a less than two weeks, how will the young people dress?

I don’t want to age myself, but it is difficult to see so many young women and men dress in tremendously provocative ways. And imagine them having to sit in a classroom with several others who dress in ways that stimulate the imagination and how that could set up a series of dynamics no one wants to see happen. But what can we do?

As parents, you do have a say in what your teenager puts on each day. Talk with your daughters if you think their neckline is too low and the hemline too high. Talk to your sons about the pants coming down so low that their boxers show, and maybe other things intended to be covered, show as well. You do have a say. You are the parent.

The way we dress conveys a message to those who see us, perhaps for the first time, and the messages they receive may not be accurate or appropriate. So why allow your child to dress in a way that sets them up for potential indiscretion and lets them down by allowing others to judge them unfairly or incorrectly?

As the parent, you do have a say in how your child dresses. I gave a talk at a church 90 minutes south of here about 10 years ago and the 300 parents and teens in attendance nearly ran me out of the assembly hall, due to the message I delivered. They didn’t want to hear it, because I said to those assembled that day, “Don’t tell your kids what to do. Take time to talk with them and share your values and explain to them why you feel and think the way you do. Don’t just tell them what to do.”

People did not want to hear that message. They wanted me to tell the kids to behave, and instead, I challenged the parents to be more present to their kids by taking time to talk and discuss decisions with them. By so doing, the parents would set up the opportunity to transmit their values in a sensible, kind, gentle way that would engage their teens, rather than simply telling them what to do. It is very sad to say, but this culture in which we are living is so pervasive and insidious, and has grown even more so over the past ten years, that kids need to know why we believe what we do.

By taking time to share your values, and why you hold these values dear, you will engage your kids in a morality lesson, and hopefully set up many more such discussions. This is a very tricky and slippery time in our history and, clearly, our kids need to understand that, “Their very look bears witness against them,” and why the way they choose to dress is so important now and will continue to be in the future.


Kate Walsh Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Stillwater. She works at Christian Heart Counseling at 275 Third Street South and can be reached at kate@christianheartcounseling.com or 651-439-2059 ext. 718.