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Valley Parenting : Allowing for a Wardrobe : Some parents and teen-agers find that a clothing allowance solves difficult shopping problems.

August 17, 1995|ROSLYN ROZBRUCH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Roslyn Rozbruch is a regular contributor to The Times

It's not always easy being a parent to a teen-ager--especially if the two of you are shopping for clothes. Between the cost and what a child picks out to wear, parents could sometimes use a mediator for the disputes. Now, as many teens update their wardrobe for the coming school year, the potential for conflict is high. But some grown-ups have eased the problem by giving their children a clothing allowance.

A clothing allowance is different from a weekly allowance. It can vary from giving a child $50 to shop for an outfit at the mall, to handing over a credit card so the youngster can buy an entire back-to-school wardrobe.

Part of determining the amount a child should receive depends on the relationship between the parent and child, says Candice Slobin, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist with a practice in Encino. "It's an individualistic issue dependent on where your child is on the responsibility and maturity scale," she says.

"Somewhere around 13 or 14 would be a beginning point to receive a clothing allowance," recommends Slobin. "In terms of developmental issues, I think it's inappropriate for anyone younger than 13."

Fred and Candi Stern, who have three teen-age daughters and live in Tarzana, started giving their children a monthly allowance of $50 when each turned 13. The money pays for whatever they want when they go shopping. Candi Stern says the allowance doesn't pay for all of their clothes, but giving her daughters, now ages 19, 18 and 15, a set amount of money has taught them to budget and prioritize their spending. "They know how to save for the clothes they want, look for sales, and they appreciate what they have more," she says.

The Sterns' daughters also help pay for high-priced outfits and shoes. "My youngest daughter Kimmie recently wanted a pair of expensive tennis shoes. I told her $40 was a reasonable amount for me to give her, and anything above that she'd have to pay with her money," says Stern.

Kimmie Stern says she doesn't mind spending her money. "If it's my money, my mom will let me buy whatever I want," she says.

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According to Slobin, it's healthy for a child to want an occasional indulgent item and either save his or her money to buy it, or contribute to its purchase. Most important, Slobin stresses that before parents hand over the cash or plastic, they should discuss with children what they need. She advises parents to look in their youngsters' closets and see what they have outgrown and need to replace. She also says parents should set limits for what types of clothes are bought.

Rick and Nancy Horn of Granada Hills say they discuss what clothes their daughter, Allison, 17, is going to buy before they give her the credit card. "We talk a lot before she shops," says Nancy Horn. "I never had to put a limit on the card because she has good judgment. She knows if she spends too much, it will be all over, and she'll never get the credit card again."

When it comes to Allison's choice in clothes, the Horns also give her plenty of leeway. "She might not buy something that is my taste, but she has never brought home anything that is inappropriate or too revealing," says Nancy.

The Horns, who also have a 21-year-old son David, say the same rules applied to him when he was a teen. "The difference between my son and daughter buying clothes was that he would be satisfied and say, " 'I have enough to wear,' " she says. "But many times he would come home with clothing I didn't like, although it was never offensive."

Experts say that when it comes to buying clothes, even though there are trendy fashions for boys, girls are usually more interested in buying new clothes. But as far as wearing clothing, it's an expression of a teen's sense of identity, whether that teen is a boy or girl.

"Teens use clothes to express who they are in the world, or who they are with their peers," explains Slobin. "A parent doesn't have to say, 'Fine, wear whatever you want,' but they should be flexible."

Caryn Crawford, a manager at Miller's Outpost in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, thinks most teen-agers know what they want. "I've seen teens come in with $40 to $100, but they'll check out the entire mall before they spend their money," says Crawford. "They'll buy a pair of pants in one store and a shirt in another store."

Michael Hanassad, a 14-year-old from Tarzana, says his mom lets him buy whatever he picks out. Hanassad says he prefers shopping with friends or alone. "I don't like shopping with my mom, because we don't agree on what clothes I should get," he admits. Hanassad, who mostly likes to wear baggy jeans and sweaters, says that to avoid arguments, his mom will give him $40 to $50 and drop him off at the mall. Happily, he reports, "She has never made me return anything."

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