NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
August 6, 1998
It's a familial rite of passage, nearly as likely to occur as the trees turning color: back-to-school shopping stress. But it doesn't have to happen, not if parents take steps to minimize the potential for conflict. It's all about understanding, listening, observingand communicating, says an educator at North Dakota State University.
"Parents need to recognize the importance of clothing to their children. That's the first step in avoiding arguments," says Linda Manikowske, an assistant professor in the apparel, textiles and interior design department at NDSU. "Parents should also keep the bigger picture in perspective and remember that disagreements over appearance can create barriers to other parent-child communication involving more important issues."
The influence of their peers can have a significant effect on the clothing choices of adolescents. Manikowske says by the time children reach third or fourth grade, peer influence usurps that of their parents.
Along with peers, advertising plays a key role in influencing adolescents. Manikowske suggests that parents become aware of the ads on TV, in other media and in the stores. She adds, "Take a look yourself, at what's fashionable and what kids are wearing."
A little nostalgia is helpful too. Before parents overreact to the styles of clothing their adolescents want to buy, they should think back to what they wore during this stage in their lives. At the same time, parents should not hesitate to guide choices for items they feel are appropriate for specific occasions, Manikowske says.
"You can teach kids a lot about consumerism if you shop with them," Manikowske continues.
Older children might be willing to earn the money it takes to buy those "gotta have it" items. Manikowske adds, "Buying name-brand clothes with money from jobs or from their allowance is a good opportunity for teenagers to practice the basics of financial management. It teaches them about compromise and how to prioritize because when that money is gone, it's gone."
If the desire for name-brand items and a child's or a family's budget don't mesh, shopping thrift and resale stores might offer a solution. Manikowske says some adolescents may be embarrassed initially but as they outgrow this stage, their ability to save money by shopping at these stores will override their negative emotions.
Another option for budget-conscious families would be to determine the quantity of name-brand items they can afford before they go shopping. Likewise, checking a child's existing clothing inventory in advance of a shopping trip gives parents and children another chance to communicate, helps them determine what is still wearable and helps children get beyond the desire to buy things that really aren't needed.
Quality and value are other aspects of consumerism that parents can teach children by shopping with them. For example, parents can explain the pros and cons of dry-clean only fabrics in the storebefore children make their purchase decision.
"Help them compare prices and allow them to make decisions, even if you don't always agree," concludes Manikowske. "Mistakes are good learning experiences too."
Source: Linda Manikowske (701) 231-7352
Editor: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136