Personal style: Giving your daughter the freedom to be herself

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Personal style: Giving your daughter the freedom to be herself

Giving your daughter full freedom of expression over what she wears can be a great way to build confidence. Try following our action checklist and watch your daughter’s individual style and self-assurance grow.

Teenage-style trends can stretch any mom’s patience to the limit. As your daughter gets older she’s likely to start experimenting with her style and appearance. She’s taking control of her own look and figuring out what works for her. But with so many different influences out there – from media and celebrities to her peers and interests – some of these experiments are bound to be more extreme than others.

But it can be positive for your daughter’s self-esteem to have the space to express her individuality. All too often, teen girls struggle to be different as there is huge pressure to conform to the look their friends have and accept. Allow her some freedom of expression to help her to grow as a person and have the confidence to be her own beautiful self. Eventually she’ll find a style and look that suits her.

Build self-confidence by supporting your daughter’s individuality

“Try to see past the latest craze or fashion phase and look for the benefits in each stage of her experimentation,” advises teen self-help writer Lisa Lister. “For example, if she’s dying her hair dark and painting her nails black to stand out from the crowd, recognize her strength of independent thinking. If she’s customizing her clothes by cutting them up and drawing on them, appreciate her creativity.”

Start by asking yourself, is it really so bad that she wants to wear black nail polish or straighten her hair? It might not be the look you would choose for her, but that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. This latest foray may be one of several in quick succession, but equally it could indicate a personality trait that is important for you to recognize.

Resistance is probably futile

Suki says she has always encouraged her 12-year-old daughter Mai to be her own person and not to follow the crowd – and it’s paid off. “She isn’t afraid to express herself,” says Suki. “She recently took the lenses out of the 3-D cinema glasses, painted the frames and wore them to school. She looked quite funny but she didn’t care – and then all her friends did the same thing.”

Rather than resisting the ways in which your daughter is expressing her individuality, embrace them by valuing her ideas and showing her how much fun she can have exploring what suits her. It could be one of the best ways to boost self-confidence. Help to nurture an appreciation for different looks and styles that go beyond the stereotypes of beauty that so many girls aspire to – then she can enjoy the process of discovering her own unique identity.

To protect privacy we’ve changed the names of the people whose stories we tell on these pages. But the stories they tell are genuine.

Action checklist:
Help your daughter express her personal style

Take a reality check: The next time she dresses in a way that you don’t like, stop and ask yourself: does it really matter? If her safety isn’t at risk and there’s no other good reason to disagree with her choice, then hold your tongue. That doesn’t mean you have to allow her to dictate the length of her skirt or amount of midriff on display, but consider letting the little things go to show her that you respect her ideas and choices.

Explore your daughter’s individual style: With some fresh perspective on her outfit selection, try going one step further and engaging with her in her latest wardrobe choices. Ask where she got the inspiration for her latest look, or how she revamped that old top into something new. By talking to her about how she’s choosing to express herself you’ll help her to feel more confident about experimenting with her style. You’ll also help her recognize that outer fashions aren’t the be-all and end-all, but can be a great way of expressing your inner personality.

Get out the sewing machine: If you enjoy sewing, have a “sewing Saturday.” Take her shopping for fabric and teach her how to cut out patterns and use a sewing machine. Or find an old dress she doesn’t wear anymore and help her customize it into something new. Perhaps there’s something in your own wardrobe she could modify for herself.

Hit the shops: Go on an “unusual” shopping trip together. For example, set yourselves a limit to buy some new items that will spruce up an old outfit, or only go to charity shops.

Enjoy yourself: Have fun and encourage her to see beyond narrow beauty ideals. Finding her own sense of style will give her greater self-confidence to reject what society tells us we should look like.

What next: Action steps to help

Share these self-esteem boosting activities with your daughter and encourage her freedom of expression to show her unique personality.

Use the action checklist to help manage your own reactions to your daughter’s teenage style experimentation.

  • What are the things that inspire her? How would she describe her personal style? Are there any similarities with the trends and fashions when you were a teenager?
  • Encourage her to be confident about expressing herself and have fun experimenting with how she looks when she’s out shopping with her friends.
  • Do you have the confidence to experiment with your own style? Get your daughter to tell you how she’d change your look if she was your personal stylist.
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