If you have kids, know kids, teach kids, or aren’t living under a rock, you’ve more than likely noticed the predictable onslaught of back-to-school advertisements that seem to be taking over print, television, and web advertisements. Have you stopped to consider the deep implications of what this “back-to-school” thing means? Moreover, have your kids?
Historically, fashion houses set fashion trends. Brands like Chanel and Christian Dior told consumers what to wear immediately following World War II, when silhouettes had become distinctly masculine for a brief time as women left the household to take on men’s jobs in their absence. Those days are gone, according to Pyschology Today’s Jennifer Baumgartner. Now, designers find inspiration for their creations right on the street – and very often, by looking at what teenagers are wearing.
Even more difficult to grasp for many adults is how celebrity adoration affects what teens want to wear, especially at a time of such rich social opportunity – what else is “Back to School” time, if not a chance to pull a Madonna-level metamorphosis? Kids learn from an early age that first impressions are binding and not easily overridden, says Baumgartner, a clinical psychologist.
“Parents, you can encourage your children not to get stuck on the never ending chase for the newest items,” says Baumgartner. “Stress the importance of their identity and independence in choosing what they love versus what they are told to love.” On the topic of celebrity emulation, Baumgartner cautions parents to recognize when a certain line is crossed.
“It is up to the parent to draw the line of the healthy versus unhealthy obsession. Make sure your child is not completely morphing into a favorite celeb,” she says.
Rather than making Back-to-School all about the clothes, shoes, and general material aspects, focus on the newest and greatest thing: personal branding (it’s so much cooler than the newest ankle boots, anyway). Personal branding expert Lida Citroen says that even though they may initially be resistant to the idea that they could use help in the area of personal branding or reputation management, it’s important to bring this to kids’ attention – especially in this highly technological new world of Facebook, iPhones, and 24/7 texting.
“As they’ve posted their dreams on Facebook, befriended the school rebel, or dated the popular girls, they’ve not paid much attention to the perception others are forming about them,” says Citroen. “How do you want to be perceived?”
Citroen suggests discussing with your teen the implications of any variety of choices that they make in their lives – ask them how they want to be seen by others, and if they think they are seen that way or if could do more to reach that goal. Address the implications of what they post on Facebook – for students, coaches, and teachers to see, in most cases), the company they keep, how they dress or conduct themselves, and how receptive they are to feedback from others.
“Your personal brand – your reputation – is one of the most powerful and empowering parts of your identity,” Citroen tells readers. “None of this is easy, but it is simple.”
By approaching the back-to-school rush from the perspective of what’s inside versus what’s outside, your student may have the best school year start ever. And you might save a few bucks, too.