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Teen's clothing not necessarily an indicator of inner turmoil
by Jodie Lynn

Q. My 15-year-old daughter dyes her hair red with blue stripes and wears black lipstick. How can we handle this?

It worked for me:

Shower this teen with love and always be positive. Ask her to wash the black lipstick off before sharing the much-wanted bedtime kiss. Remember, 15-year-olds aren't too old for this. -- Christy Harward of Nashville, Tenn.

Does she obey curfews? Is she polite, and does she have good grades? If she isn't in any trouble for skipping classes, cutting school or worse, then don't worry. As a librarian at a high school with more than 1,600 students, I've seen a lot of "self-expression." Ages 13-15 seem to be when good kids experiment with fairly harmless ways to get themselves noticed or to find out who they are. Compliment and make a low-keyed, big deal over a well-done research paper, making a team or being selected student of the week. Next year, it'll be something else, and she won't want to be reminded of this phase in her life. -- M.R. of Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

I suggest to run, not walk, to the guidance counselor or assistant principal at your teen's school for a down-to-earth information session. Ask what group of students your daughter hangs out with and how they are doing in school. -- J.M. of Fort Wayne

I have a perfect school record, a 92 percent average, and am courteous to my teachers. I am in the midst of lifeguard training, play classical cello and sing in the church choir. Right now, I am wearing black-and-red striped, thigh-high tights, red vinyl 4-inch heeled boots, leopard-print gloves, and six braids in my hair. Sound like an oxymoron? It doesn't have to be. A slightly unorthodox style of dressing is not necessarily an automatic sign of antisocial tendencies or drug use. It is simply a way of expressing artistic feeling. This parent needs to stop thinking about how to quell her daughter's creative flair and start spending more time with her. Soon the multicolored dyes will fade away, and the black lipstick will be washed off, but a bad parental relationship in childhood will leave a permanent mark on this young woman for life. I am 16 years old. -- Meredith Lapp of Toronto

From Jodie: The kids say it's only for "expression," and the parents think it's dangerous. Personally, I don't like it. But as a former teacher, you'd be surprised at whose children do it! They are simply saying, "I'm independent; please look at me!" Basically, all they need is love, attention and acceptance. Kids will want to express themselves, and as long as they have a good attitude and grades, it's probably harmless.

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