"You're not wearing that, are you?" Those words have probably been spoken in every language in every household with a teenager in the world. Today the conversation -- or, um, "debate" -- starts in the tween years.
Clothing, hairstyles, makeup and accessories give tweens a means to express their individuality, which is important as they search for their unique identities. As the parent, though, you need to guide your child and help him or her make choices that won't result in a trip to the principal's office.
Talk to your child about how appearance affects the way the world sees us. Explain family rules, such as no bare midriffs or purple hair, and stick to your guns. Go over the school's dress code carefully with your child, and remind him or her that students must follow it just as you follow the dress code at work. Set a budget before you go shopping. Within these limits, encourage your child to choose the colors, patterns and styles that fit his or her personality. Your child can have fun experimenting with fashion without being sent home from school -- or scaring the dog.
Next up: It's 11 o'clock, do you know where your tween is?