My fourteen-year-old daughter has been wearing boy clothes and boxers.  I’m afraid that she is lesbian. Is there anything I can do to get her to be my little girl again?

Well, although you ask one question, there are actually concerns at hand: you are concerned about her sexuality and you want her to be your little girl by wearing more female gender specific clothing.  The first one is actually easier.  You can ask her directly about her sexuality.  Depending on your relationship she may be quite honest.  The question you must ask yourself is how will you react if she tells you she is lesbian.  Regardless of your religious ideology, I urge you to affirm your daughter for the person she is and not based on who she is attracted to.  Many teen suicides are linked to fears of rejection from family members (SOURCES). The high rates of homelessness among teens are also linked to sexuality issues, as there are some parents refuse to house gay and lesbian children.  I argue that it is more important to focus on character and integrity of your child. 

It should also be noted that wearing boxers and boy clothes may be a style statement and not a sexuality statement.

As far as your little girl coming back… she is still your daughter.  She spent much of her life as as your little girl and she is now growing into the woman she will become. Clothes don’t make the man or woman, character does. What matters most to you? That your child has on a dress or that she’s a person of integrity who is true to herself and her identity? 

My teen son will not pull up his pants and I hate it!  What can I do to get him to pull up his pants?

For the past 10 years or so this has been an ongoing lament.  Although I dislike the practice, I recognize it as a youthful style that intends to gain attention and to serve as a style departure from the social norm.  That means, I dress like this because I am young and adults don’t like it!   If you revisit your youth, you are likely to remember (with the help of some pictures) that your choice in clothes was not always celebrated by your parents.  Those same grandparents who talk about the pants are some of the same ones who introduced us to hot pants and platform shoes! 

Youth style is just that – style.  It is not about function excepting to make parents mad.  My quick response is that if you raise expectations, then pants levels rise.  That is, if your son is working or attending formal events, then his pants will rise.  When he is with friends, then the sagging will be present.  While you may not like the style, you may have a conversation with your son and state that while you know it is a style, you don’t like it and while he is in your presence, then he should show respect to your wishes by keeping his pants up. 

Another suggestion is to start buying his clothes with him.  He can’t sag if you buy the correct size!

Yan Searcy is an associate professor in the Departments of Social Work and Sociology at Chicago State University where he has taught for the past 16 years.  His areas of research and practice include child and adolescent welfare and urban social policy.  He is a proud husband and father of two! Need parenting advice? Email yan[email protected] and your questions may appear in future column!