School dress codes aren’t anything new, but the buzz, drama, and downright controversy swirling around them in recent years has put a major spotlight on what your daughter can—and more pointedly, can’t—wear to class. Stories about middle- and high-school girls being pulled out of class for wearing shorts that are deemed too short or shirt straps that are seen as too thin are making headlines, going viral, and prompting many girls and adults to question whether or not these wardrobe rules are fair.
But what happens when dress codes go from simply a buzzy topic you hear about in the news to an issue that’s directly affecting your girl and her friends? Check out these tips from Girl Scouts’ developmental psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald on how to deal when your daughter is upset about her school’s dress code:
Get Her to Talk
“If your daughter thinks the rules are inappropriate, hear her out—whether you agree with her or not,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. Get the conversation going by asking her what feels unfair about the rules. Is it the dress code itself, or how it’s enforced? Are some girls called out while others aren’t? Are the rules as strict for boys as they are for girls? Are there parts of the dress code, perhaps some that relate to safety concerns, that she does think are reasonable? What does she think should change?
Get Her to Question
Rather than telling your girl that rules are rules whether they’re unfair or not, recognize this as a great opportunity for her to engage in civic action and stand up for what she believes in. The world never changes if people just shrug their shoulders and accept status quo! “Questioning school rules—whether or not they’re fair, why they exist, and whether or not they serve the purpose they were intended to— sets your daughter up to be an active member of our society as she gets older,” says Dr. Bastiani Archibald. “We need more leaders who take the time to not just think about why rules and systems are the way they are, but also how they can be improved and made better for everyone."
Get Her to Act
Girls around the country aren’t simply complaining about their schools’ dress codes or how they’re enforced in the classroom. They’re taking action. By organizing, advocating for herself through student government, showing up at parent-teacher nights, and even speaking at school board meetings, your daughter can take a stand, raise awareness, and possibly change the rules. And regardless of the outcome of her actions, simply taking these steps of advocacy will teach her how to use her voice and get involved in her community. And that is a pretty awesome thing, no matter where you stand on the issue!
Show her she can do anything she sets her mind to with these easy tips.