You cringe as your daughter’s skirt flies up at the playground, revealing her underwear. She’s playing so hard that she doesn’t notice. You wonder to yourself: Is it time to teach her about modesty? How do I start that conversation? What do I say?
You know this is going to be a long and taxing talk. It’s going to be even harder when your child starts questioning the clothing choices of the people around you, especially with swim suit season around the corner.
“Mommy, why do I have to hold my skirt down when she wears her bra and panties on the beach?”
“Mommy, why isn’t that boy wearing a shirt? Why do I have to wear a shirt?”
Only you know the exact way to approach these questions with your child (because each child is uniquely and beautifully different), but here are:
5 Things to Remember when You Discuss Modesty with Your Child
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Beauty: Your child and his or her body is beautiful. When discussing covering up certain body parts, be sure that your child understands that there is nothing wrong with these body parts. God made them and they’re beautiful, but we don’t show them to other people unless that person is their husband or wife (or a doctor when you’re in the room).
“Teaching children modesty is critical to healthy self- esteem and many parents don’t understand this. Helping your daughter learn to love her body enough to keep it private is extremely important. Modesty, in fact is a natural means of self-preservation and our culture crushes it. When that happens, children are harmed in a multitude of ways. Many think modesty comes from being ashamed of the body but in fact, healthy modesty shows the opposite- that one is proud and respectful of their body.” Dr. Meg Meeker, Meg Meeker, M.D.
Different: Even though other people act and dress certain ways, it doesn’t mean that your child gets to act or dress that way. Just like some kids go to bed earlier or homeschool or play soccer instead of basketball, your child is different from those children. Teach your child that he or she doesn’t have to behave the ways other behave. This will be a valuable lesson to engrain in your child as your child develops into the teen years.
“I think having some idea of the concept of modesty, but not a huge focus on it in the early years, creates a framework that we can build on later when modesty really is important.” Kendra, Catholic All Year
Your Perceptions: You need to be okay with your child dressing modestly. Your child may be rejected by peers because they aren’t perceived as cool or don’t behave as society instructs. You need to be your child’s number one supporter, always reinforcing what the Bible tells us and believing in your child’s best interests.
“The issue feels far more complicated to her mother because she worries about your daughter being rejected by her friends. In second grade, clothing isn’t such a big issue, but in high school it’s huge. How many times have I heard of a daughter walking out the door when Dad stops her, telling her to change into more appropriate clothes? What usually happens next is that her mother chimes in and says that all girls dress that way.” Dr. Meg Meeker, Meg Meeker, M.D.
What Modest Looks Like: Dressing modestly doesn’t mean dressing ugly or homely. As your child ages, especially if she’s a girl, she will have difficulty finding clothes that are “in style” that aren’t revealing. Your child needs to know how to make modesty look beautiful and you have to be the example of that.
“It is possible to be stylish, pretty and covered up. I know it is; I’ve seen it happen. Right here in my own home and in the homes of my friends. Pretty girls dressed in pretty clothes appropriate to their ages and covering everything that needs to be covered. Teaching your children modesty in their clothing and in their demeanor awakens them to the fact that they are spiritual beings, designed by God for good and holy reasons.
It ingrains in them a respect for the human person and gives them a dignity which they will fight mightily to retain. It will give them armor to fight the war against chastity that society will draft them into at a ridiculously young age. A strong sense of modesty will teach your children that their bodies are sacred spaces not to be abused or treated ill. They will surround themselves with like-minded peers and you will find as they get older that their inclination will be to shun what is not modest and embrace what is.” Mary Ellen Barrett, Catholic Exchange
What exactly is Modesty? Modesty is more that what you’re wearing, it has a lot to do with how you act. Kendra at Catholic All Year says:
“We shouldn’t attempt to draw attention to ourselves by wearing not enough clothes, of course. But nor should we draw attention to ourselves by wearing clothing that is dirty, or mismatched, or has inappropriate text, or is not appropriate for the event.
A young lady wearing a ball gown to the public pool may be more covered up than all the other women there, but she would certainly be making a spectacle of herself with her clothing. If that’s the reason she’s dressed like that, then it’s immodest.
We wear clothes to protect our bodies from the elements, and to allow other people to feel comfortable being in our company. My kids need to learn to make clothing choices with that in mind.” Read more of Kendra’s thoughts on modesty.
As you teach your child about modesty and develop on the idea of modesty in character and behavior as they age, remember that the modesty we are asking of them isn’t to fight society or or them to be unique. Modesty allows the beauty of Christ to shine through their character, without distractions. You are helping your child to glorify God in every task, in behavior and in choosing what to wear in the morning.
Be that example for your children and be sure that the examples in your home (television, magazines, books) reflect the modesty that you want them to exhibit.
Please comment: What other important factors can you think of when discussing modesty with your child?