The struggle over what to wear or what not to wear is an issue of eternity. It’s gone on for generations.
For teenagers the universal struggles of rebellion and assertion of independence are nothing new. In some generations the struggle is symbolized by appearance. Think mini-skirts, bra burning and long hair in the 60s.
Unfortunately, the current skimpy dress styles are not issues of assertion or rebellion. They are blatantly and unashamedly opening the door to sin and to the lust of the eyes at the expense of modesty and purity.
In the earlier years parents teach and enforce principles and values.
Things change when entering the teenage years. Parents must begin transitioning to clarifying values, principles and behaviors and then mentoring their children to choose to live accordingly.
As the teenage years progress, parents would do well give their teenagers more and more freedom to make their own choices. This is a touchy area if Christian values were poorly taught, or if the discussion degrades into a shouting match where every one gets hurt. At that point the dress discussion becomes just one more battlefield of rebellion that damages relationships and isolates individuals.
So, as parents, how do we handle our teenagers’ desires to dress like celebrities or slobs as the case may be?
What am I thinking? Allow me to share some thoughts to consider:
First, clarify issues
- Carefully have them consider that they can’t live on their parents’ faith forever. The time comes when they must personally decide for themselves whether or not they will take up the Christian faith and live accordingly.
- Discuss the Biblical teachings regarding the relationship between proper dress and looking more like Christ than looking like the world.
- Help your teen to see that this choice is not just a decision of outside clothes but of inner character and spirituality.
- Make it clear that choosing to dress more modestly may actually lead to being a living sacrifice for Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). Acknowledge that the difficulty for living sacrifices is overcoming the incredible temptation to crawl off the altar. Help them understand that living for Jesus is costly but worth it at any price (Matthew 5:10-12 and 1 Peter 1:6-9).
- Help them to understand that God uses difficulties to refine us to look more and more like Jesus. The decision to dress properly is not just something they are doing to help Jesus; they are getting a lot out of it, too.
- Help them see the powerful impact they can have by daring to be different. Alternative dress in contrast to what everyone else is wearing may result in opportunities to lead people closer to, instead of away from Jesus.
Second, allow your teen the freedom to make his or her choice.
- Stand beside them regardless. If they dress more modestly then praise God! But, if they choose otherwise, then pray that their consciences will lead them back to the better path.
- If your relationship was not damaged by a sustained battle, you are in a position to help them pick up the pieces and start over again when they return for repentance, forgiveness and comfort.