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Shopping with a teen who has body issues

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

How to shop with teens and stay body-positive

Teenage angst is a force to be reckoned with, especially when it's time to shop for back-to-school clothing.

It's easy for parents to forget just how traumatic it can feel for their kids to shop for a body they don't even recognize anymore. After all, longer legs, wider hips, acne, stretch marks and boobs (sometimes overnight) are a lot for anyone to handle.

Of course, every mother would wish away her child's body image issues if she could. The world we live in, though, makes it nearly impossible to remove a teenager's insecurities with reasoning alone, so here are a couple of suggestions to make shopping a little more enjoyable and edifying for everyone.

1. Head to the right store

Stay away from stores that feature dubious sizes like "000." Instead, find a store that carries an equal representation of all sizes and shapes, so your teen won't feel abnormally big or small when she's perusing the racks. JCPenney's Arizona Bootcut Jeans, for instance, run from size 0 to 21 to fit the shape of every girl.

2. Talk about sizing

Teens get stuck when they think about the size they "should" wear, but every grown woman knows that sizes vary from store to store. Before your sweet pea finds herself upset by needing a bigger size, have a frank talk with her about how she'll feel best when she wears the size that fits rather than the size she wants.

3. Encourage minimal mirror-gazing

Dressing room mirrors are ridiculously unforgiving, so find a store or a corner fitting room with minimal mirrors in the individual dressing rooms. Instead, encourage your child to look at her outfits in the hall of the dressing room, where the mirrors are more forgiving and further away so she can't agonize over a close-up of her butt in jeans.

4. Remember the importance of lighting

Fluorescent lighting makes everyone sad. Remember that, and find a store with happy lighting instead. Seriously, though, a well-lit fitting room can make your teen feel as beautiful as she is, while removing some of her body anxiety.

5. Don't engage in body shame conversations

Have a game plan for what to say when your teen yells from the dressing room, "I'm so fat," or some such nonsense. The natural inclination, of course, is to respond, "you're not fat," or "stop it and try on your clothes already," but those retorts aren't helpful. Instead, formulate a response that acknowledges your child's insecurity while moving the conversation back to the fit of the clothing rather than discussing whether she has or has not gained two pounds.

6. Finish with accessorizing

Even if shopping day turns into a disaster, you'll still be able to salvage it by purchasing makeup and a few accessories to finish your child's back to school wardrobe. Remember to compliment her on her taste, and remind her that it's a beautiful finish for a beautiful girl.

7. Listen up, Mom

Finally, respect your teen's wishes if she says she's not up for shopping anymore, or if she despises an outfit that you think looks great on her. Part of her body image struggle is the manifestation of her independence from you and her childhood, and while it's painful to watch as a mother, her growing strength is in a mom who supports and respects her desires.

This post was sponsored by JCPenney.

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