Thin mannequins, flashing lights, the pressure to conform, and the chance to meet up with peers — both known and unknown.
It all happens at the mall, and teenagers often swarm there. Don’t take it too lightly. The mall can offer your teen an opportunity to hang out, outside of parental supervision, and yet still be in a place with rules and expectations. Successful experiences at the mall often involve deliberate preparation in shopping etiquette, public behavior and smart shopping.
Let’s back up a bit. If you have a pre-teen not yet ready to be alone at the mall, you can still prepare him or her for this eventual exciting event. Take them shopping and discuss, casually, money, marketing and the consequences of public behavior. Let them watch you as you navigate through sales, temperamental clerks and working out your budget.
As you prepare to let go of your teen at the mall, take it in steps:
- Go to the mall yourself and observe the happenings. Take notes and come home as you prepare to alert your teen to the mall experience. Each mall is different and brings you its own unique experiences including parking, dining and safety issues.
- Have your teen bring along her friends as you go shopping with her.
- Go to the mall together and let them go ahead. But still keep an eye on them.
- Go to the mall together but then actually separate. Have them call you at designated times and discuss plans and possible purchases.
- Finally, begin to drop her off and pick her up at a pre-arranged place and time. The duration of mall stays will depend on proven responsibility.
Use the mall to reiterate some of the good values that you already have instilled in your teens. Let them use the mall to exhibit good public behavior. Teaching them proper shopping etiquette (put merchandise back in its original locations; wait in line patiently; smile and be polite to clerks) can only help your teen with their public social skills. Chances are they’ll be steps ahead in other displays of public behavior too.
We have to mention shoplifting. While your adolescent may not plan to shoplift, he or she can fall into this act to impress friends, especially due to the “dare” factor. Your teens should know how to remove themselves from a suspect group.
Teach your teen about shopping and marketing gimmicks. Thirty percent of what? – the original price. Should she buy it just because it is on sale? Does that fit into the budget?
Finally and really important, try to prepare your teens, especially females, for the inevitable conflicts they might feel as they visit the mall. Their clothes size is different than their peers and is changing; that is ok! They don’t feel right about how young women are being portrayed- that is ok and good! They don’t look like the glistening bodies or rail-thin mannequins- that is ok. Maybe they can’t buy the expensive jeans that their friends can; that is ok. Arm them with preparation to be confident in themselves and own their own choices and self-esteem.