Stressing About Daughter’s Appearance

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Q: Help! My daughter is from a different planet. Her hair is blue, she wears skirts over pants, she speaks a completely different language (Thank god for the dictionary you wrote!) and last week she came home with her tongue pierced!

H.M., Winnipeg, MB

Teresa and Saleema: It’s payback time! We don’t blame you for stressing out about your daughter’s appearance—a tongue piercing would be hard to swallow (no pun intended!) for almost any parent. Remember that it is your right as a parent to have a conversation with your daughter about your concerns. Besides the obvious futility of wearing a skirt over pants, what lies beneath your discomfort? Do you feel she will be stereotyped because of her clothing? Are you worried she is at risk in some way? You might want to do some thinking about why this really bothers you. Keep in mind when you talk to your daughter that all adolescents go through a healthy stage of forming an identity through their appearance, rarely embraced by their parents. Yes, teens today have definitely pushed the envelope when it comes to appropriate attire, but doesn’t every generation? Did your parents approve of your hip-hugging bell-bottoms and short halter-tops? How did they feel about teenage boys growing beards and having long hair? We know our parents still cringe at the thought of caked-on dark black eyeliner, painted-on acid wash jeans (you know, so tight we had to lie on the bed to zip them up), spiky short hair with long braided tails in the back, and bangles worn all the way up to the elbows. And we thought we looked totally tubular (great)! Consider this as a rite of passage. Every parent in every generation feels tortured by his or her teen’s sense of style, and this phase will pass. So too will the KoolAid she probably used as dye. Proof of point: Neither of us is sporting a tail these days, nor would we be caught dead in acid wash jeans. And we’re happy to report that, although previously plagued by our appearance, our parents are alive and well…