Wishing my daughter better appreciated the clothes we buy her

School starts next week for my kids. And as always, I take the beginning of August as a time to go through all their clothes to determine what they have outgrown or what they simply no longer like. I often do this also in April as we gear up for the summer. (We are in Texas, and they are already wearing shorts and tees by February or March.)

My kids dread this time as often I make them try on anything that might be too small. I dread this time as I see them discard item after item that they begged me to buy but rarely wore. In fact, I finally had it with Lexie and told her that I was going to stop buying her clothes altogether.

Yes, I went a little overboard. And of course I don’t mean it. But it is tough to see almost brand new outfits discarded. It is one thing if it was worn many times, and she finally outgrew it. But these are items that we bought at the beginning of summer.

And I understand that tastes change. An Inside Out T-shirt may no longer be popular or the fad of wearing Anna and Elsa has fallen to the wayside. Tastes change, and she is growing up.

It isn’t like I have never bought a shirt and then later decided I didn’t like it as well as I thought or the shoes weren’t as comfortable as they were in the store. But the amount of clothes Lexie, in particular, gets rid of is ridiculous.

I have bought her three pairs of shoes to find that she ends up wearing the same pair every day. She begged for the others too, but they don’t get worn. At the beginning of this month, we got rid of 10 pairs of shoes. About four of those wore worn a lot but many of the others – including a pair of sandals she just had to have in June – were barley worn.

She finally parted with most of her dresses in her closet. She rarely wears them. I think she likes the idea of pretty dresses and certainly loves shopping for them. We bought one with her Gramme for our cruise last year, and I know she didn’t wear it on the cruise. Lexie went shopping with her Nana once and came home with several cute dresses that may have been worn only once. They were far too dressy for school, and we hardly dress up to go out to dinner. Some of them would have been appropriate Easter dresses if we attended Easter services.

Now I guess I shouldn’t be too upset since it wasn’t my money that was spent on these items. But it feels like such a waste, and it feels like I am teaching her the wrong thing. I am teaching her that items are so easily disposable. (We donate them to the children’s shelter.) I mean it is great that we can buy her whatever she wants, but I would like her to value it and appreciate it.

Both kids have the tendency to buy things because they want to make someone happy. Nana loved buying her those dresses. Gramme enjoys taking the kids back to school shopping and won’t say no to items like I will. And I love that both sets of grandparents want to help out. I just don’t want the kids to say yes to clothes that they don’t want to wear.

And it isn’t like I don’t ask them when we are purchasing these items. I usually ask two or three times – “Are you sure you like this?” and “You will wear this to school, right?” Last time I went shopping with Lexie I urged her to only buy the outfits she loved. She couldn’t just like them. I started doing this myself years ago. If I don’t love the outfit, it stays at the store. Now to get the kids to do the same thing.

Teaching my kids life skills

My kids are 8 and 11 and while they do some chores around the house, I know there are many things they don’t know how to do that are just part of living. When in college, there were many students who had never had to cook or do laundry before. And don’t even get me started on the amount of people who have little knowledge of how to handle money.

So to better prepare my kids for life (or just to have them help out around the house more), I decided this summer we would work on some “life lessons.”

There are tons of websites out there that list what type of activities kids should be able to do at every age. I started there and have been adding items to my list as I think of them.

Money

As I said, my concern is that they will not know how to handle money. We currently give them a small allowance which has let them learn about saving up for bigger purchases and only buying what they can afford. But they see us all the time using debt or credit cards. I just didn’t think they had a good enough understanding of how that pays for the items we need.

budget discussion

Budget worksheet for the kids…we used monthly incomes of $1200, $1800, $3000 and $4000.

So far, we have talked about bank accounts and debit cards versus credit cards. We have talked about the difference between a want and a need. And we even worked with budgeting our money using Monopoly money (see photo for our worksheet). The top of the page had them first putting money aside for savings. This is a point I plan to stress to them a lot – you don’t spend everything you make. You need emergency money. And of course that you buy the things you NEED before the fun stuff.

Household Chores

My kids have washed dishes, swept, vacuumed and cleaned windows before but there was still a whole bunch of additional cleaning chores that we went over. We did the sorting, washing, drying and folding of the laundry. They changed the sheets on their bed, learned how to start the dishwasher, set the table and the basics of sewing – threading a needle, putting on a button, fixing a small tear.

Cooking

One of my favorite sections (and the kids’ favorite) has been cooking. I have shown them how to use the can opener and microwave. We have followed a recipe as well as bought groceries (which included price comparisons) and learned about expiration dates and reading labels.

We have made brownies and cookies from scratch as well as ice cream, and each child has made dinner by themselves.

General

And last but not least there have been discussion on things that didn’t seem to fit into any of the above categories. We have practiced making 911 calls, discussed making calls to businesses and taking messages for incoming house calls as well as giving a firm handshake when you meet someone. I have drilled in our phone numbers (house and mobiles) as well as our address (including city and state). Lexie still has trouble with this but Jase has known his since he was 5.

Just last week we also talked about general first aid information even though both kids have been doctoring their own cuts with bandaids for a few years.

It has been a productive six weeks, and I will continue looking for more things to introduce them to during the rest of the summer. Of course, I don’t expect to stop when school starts. I think I will always be on the lookout for more things to share with them. It just is amazing how often we do stuff for our kids rather than spending the time to explain it to them or better yet having them help us. And then we wonder why they don’t do anything for themselves!

 

Discussing tanning and body image with my 8-year-old

IMG_1907Several times in the past month, Lexie has commented on being thin. She is thin – not bean-pole thin like her cousin but by no means is she fat or even slightly hefty. But sometime she mentions worrying about becoming fat. This is from the same girl who usually shows no concern about her appearance (we have to argue to get her to even comb her hair, which typically looks uncombed just five minutes after she brushes it.)

We know we need to address the issue of body image but have some concerns on how best to do that. I don’t want to focus on her weight as it is so easy for kids to latch onto some comment and blow it out of proportion in their own mind.

So I did what I always do when faced with a topic I need more information about – I began researching online how to handle this conversation with her.

Experts suggest staying positive and focusing on health, not weight. It was comforting to read that at this age (8) there is a good chance she will outgrow her concern. She is most likely reacting to peer pressure and self-consciousness rather than developing any type of disorder. While she may be picking up concerns from peers or the media, she is not likely to fully internalize these harmful messages as adolescent might do.

So how do I address this issue without intensifying or morphing it into an eating disorder? Here are a few tips…

  • Speak your message calmly and consistently (even if she disagrees with you)
  • Talk about different body types and that people come in all shapes and sizes. Some heavy people may be more fit just as someone who is thin may not be healthy.
  • Concentrate on being healthy through proper nutrition and exercising, rather than focusing on numbers or appearance

But it is more than just worrying about Lexie’s self-image. I don’t want her to be making comments to those who are not as fit as she is. A few years ago, it was not uncommon for her to point out to me people who were old, bald or fat. I don’t know that she thought of them as “bad” necessarily but did notice the difference in people. While we have always discouraged her from pointing out these physical differences, I don’t want her to shun people because they look different whether it be extra weight, that they wear glasses or have some sort of deformity. Sometimes these things are not choices the person can make.

I don’t want her to focus so much on appearance but to be able to see the person beyond. The chubby girl in her class can be creative, funny, serious, scared or a number of things. Most importantly, she can be a good friend. She needs to understand that no matter your weight, you are a valuable person.

And studies have shown that by fifth or sixth grade, the stigma that fat people are bad or inferior is often already ingrained in kids’ minds. Suggestions that I read said to ask questions such as

  • Does body weight have anything to do with whether a person is kind or mean?
  • Can you tell what a person is like just by his or her body size?
  • (when reading) How do you think the character felt when she was teased about her weight? If you saw someone being teased like this character was, how could you help him?

The hard thing is that people often do tease one another about their looks or behavior. And while someone may think it is just playfulness it can truly hurt and it can affect a child’s self-image.

Almost everything I read emphasized that our own attitudes about food and body shape impact our kids’ relationship with weight. So while I have been trying to lose some weight over the past few months, I need to be careful how Lexie perceives this. (And the bad thing is I have been focusing on the scale and how much I weigh more than I should.)

Tanning

Lexie has all of sudden shown an interest in tanning. Not using a tanning bed, but she has mentioned laying out to get a tan while we are at the pool. Now I remember doing this too as a teenager. But of course I didn’t realize any of the dangers of tanning. While I think there is nothing wrong with a tan (you will get one just by being active outside), I am not too keen on my 8-year-old focusing on it or laying out to get one.

Whenever we head to the theme park, water park or the pool, we slather on sunscreen (usually SPF 50) and reapply it every 90 minutes to 2 hours. But if it is a short jaunt outside – a quick walk to the park or a brief stop at the playground (which is mostly in the shade) – we don’t apply sunscreen. And she understands that we do use the sunscreen so we don’t get a sunburn. But she doesn’t know anything about excessive sun exposure and repeated sunburns leading to premature aging and of course skin cancer.

So while I would love for Lexie to build her tan while being active outside, I would rather her not purposely lie out to get one especially at such a young age. The issue here is to give her enough information about the dangers without making her overly fearful of any sun exposure. I guess it is the same balancing act that I must follow when discussing her body image and both certainly will be topics we discuss often in the upcoming years.