Every August I have the same fantasy – perhaps you know the one:
My daughter Sophie and I spending a lovely day clothes shopping at the mall, picking out a cute and coordinated wardrobe worthy of Teen Magazine fashion spread, and then sharing girly secrets over a relaxing lunch.
I can hear the moms with teenage daughter chuckling – because they all know how that shopping day really ends – with one or both of us angry, crying, and not speaking to the other.
So last year I came up with a plan of action. A halfway point between fantasy and reality that would increase our odds of having a bearable, and maybe even bonding experience getting ready for Back To School. I have found that, for us – it works pretty well.
1. Discuss a budget prior to shopping. This may be one of the best ways to avert catastrophe. I sometimes (ha!) stress about money and I found that Sophie would be asking if she could get something, or would be trying on things that were out of our budget (but looked adorable) and I would start internally freaking out about how I was going to pay for it.
Then I would get anxious and depressed and snap at her which would quickly lead down the road to a fight usually in front of a bunch of other moms and daughters in the Delia’s dressing room. This wasn’t her fault. It was my fault.
Now, when we go into Back To School – we both have a clear cut idea of what we can spend, and both take stock of what we are spending as we go along. It has helped a lot. Once she has looked and compared prices Sophie will often now say – “I’d rather have this than that”.
It gives her more control over what is going on, and more real life experience on budgeting. Plus – you would be amazed at how well your kid can compute percentages when they are figuring out how much money a sale might save.
2. Walk into the Day with Your Eyes Open. Once you have a budget, encourage your fashionista to look through catalogs and magazines, and see what is going to be in style this season. A Pinterest board might be great fun – or if you want to keep things more private between the two of you, – you can have her share fashions she likes via a Hatchedit Curate it photo sharing board.
I find it is always wise to discuss with Sophie what is appropriate and what is not. And to try and find ways that she can incorporate the latest fashions into styles that are fun for a 13 year old. It lets me hash out any of the potential explosive arguments i.e.,“NO you are NOT going to wear a leather mini skirt to middle school” on my own turf.
3. Make up a list of what you need to buy. Make a list of the necessities (2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of sneakers, new underwear, 3 tops, etc). This way you know exactly what the necessities are, and it is less likely you will get sidetracked by “cool stuff” (like that faux leather jacket, or those diamante studded boots).
Hint: Maybe leave a little room in your budget for one cool trendy item and let your fashionista know it is there as a reward for meeting your budgeting goals.
4. Do Not Try and Get Everything Done In One Day. I have found that spreading out back to school shopping over a few trips limits the pressure on both of us. This year we are going to try and get as much as we can in person, and then experiment with buying things and hunting for sales online.
But we have definitely started to look early, and look often whenever we are out The selections are bigger, and that alone means fewer arguments. I’ve also marked 2 definite dates in our Hatchedit.com family calendar so that we both know what day will be focused on Back To School.
Several women I have spoken to with older daughters – allow them to “fantasy shop” in stores putting together a few outfits, and then going over them with mom for review. If Sophie and I can get most of the things on her list taken care of in the stores, and then she can flex some “independence” shopping online we may find the perfect balance for next year.
5. Try and remember what it was like to be a teenager, with a body either changing too fast or not fast enough. Take lots of deep breaths, and no matter how moody or emotional things get, try and stay calm and positive. You can do it.
Kirsten Bischoff is co-Founder of www.Hatchedit.com the Free Social Organizer for families. HatchedIt has been recognized by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), which awarded us the Organizers Choice Award for Best Tech Product of 2012. The site was also featured in the “Surf it!” section of Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine (May 2012.