Back to School Clothes Shopping
Back to school season can be a stressful time for both parents and children/adolescents. A very stressful aspect can be back to school clothes shopping, especially if your child's body has recently had any changes, whether these be due to natural growth and development or being in recovery from an eating disorder. Here are some tips to hopefully help both parents and young adults with this experience:
The most important tip or recommendation is to never encourage your child to change their body. They are likely already getting some pressure to do so from outside factors that we may not always have control of such as peers, parents of friends, coaches or teachers. Let their relationship with you be a safe space for body acceptance and body respect.
If it feels better for your child to try clothing on at home versus in the store, you can purchase things in store or online to do just this. Create a calm and safe environment for your child to try clothes on, and let them know they don't have to try everything on at one time and you can break it up into increments if needed.
Whether your child is trying on clothes at home or in the store, try to monitor their usage of the mirrors to make sure no additional body checking is sneaking into the experience. Ask them if it feels comfortable to stand in, sit in, play sports in and the like, while taking stock of how they are experiencing the usage of the mirror.
Make sure the clothes they are buying actually fit their here and now body. Gently remind your child that it is the job of the clothing to fit the person, not the other way around. When clothing doesn't fit us well it can actually bring more focus to our bodies; if we're uncomfortable with a too tight tank-top strap or a button on jeans digging into our stomachs, this can perpetuate negative body image thoughts.
Use back to school shopping as a teaching moment to inform your child of how arbitrary clothes sizing is. While it may feel really important to your child to fit into a "certain size", remind them that many factors influence the size that is right for us: the store, material, type of clothing. Instead of feeling like they need to buy a specific size in all of the tops that they like, let them explore the difference between different stores and materials such as how a chiffon blouse versus a cotton t-shirt fits in different sizes (if this feels like something your child is ready for).
Lastly, your child might or might not want to talk about the stressors that come up during a clothes shopping experience. Piggybacking off of tip #1, try not to jump right to wanting to assure your child that they don't have to worry about their appearance or size as this reinforces the message that there are certain appearances or sizes to worry about. Instead, reassure them that they are worthy and loved by you no matter what. Keep an open line of communication available so that if and when they are ready to speak further with you, they know that they can.