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Successful Holiday Clothes Shopping With An Overweight Child Or Teen

It can be tough to find fashionable clothes for overweight girls. As parents, we want our kids to look great for the holidays – for the parties, dinners, and for all of those family photos. But when you have an overweight or even chubby child or teen, shopping for the perfect holiday outfit can be stressful – for your child and for you!

Maggie, mother of Kelsey (11), explains it well, “As soon as I tell Kelsey I don’t like an outfit she’s trying on, she starts yelling that I think she’s fat. Then she’s crying… I feel like I can never say anything right!”

Maggie’s experience is not unusual. Many parents want to be able to get their overweight kids – especially tweens and teens – the perfect holiday outfit but aren’t sure how to find clothes to flatter and fit, without hurting their child’s feelings. So shopping often becomes a dreaded event for both of you, resulting in misunderstandings, arguing and tears. Some parents and kids say that at times, even long-term negative effects can be felt from bad-clothes-shopping experiences.

But, you don’t have to continue dreading holiday clothes shopping because there are a few simple but very important ways to make the experience much more pleasant. These will not only improve your shopping experience, but also your relationship with your child or teen.

1. No matter how pressed for time you may be with holiday craziness, resist the urge to shop with an overweight child and a slim child at the same time (age and gender don’t matter!). Your overweight child or teen may have a hard time finding the perfect holiday outfit, while your slimmer child looks great in everything. This will be a depressing experience for your chubby child, and it will be uncomfortable for your thinner child too.

2. If you are a slim mom shopping with your teenage daughter, don’t shop for your outfit while shopping for your daughter. Her self-esteem will be negatively affected knowing that you are trying on clothes which are too small for her. Rather, devote your time to her and save your own shopping for a time when you’re alone. Of course, this suggestion also applies to a slimmer dad shopping for holiday clothes with his son!

3. If your child or teen tries on an outfit you don’t like, do your best not to react strongly. “You look awful in that”; “that makes you look fat”; “I refuse to buy that!” or similar words, are guaranteed to result in anger, hurt feelings and a huge argument in the fitting room and even long after, so choose your words carefully. Instead try: “I don’t love that outfit, let’s try a few more before we decide”; or “I’m not sure these pants look as great as some other things I’ve seen you in, would you mind if we keep looking?”

4. Catalogue shopping can be less stressful for some kids because it means being able to try on clothes in complete privacy. However, this requires advanced planning – for you and your child. It also means you must be prepared to handle returns, if necessary, without making your child feel guilty - especially if you’ve purchased more than one size of an outfit. If this seems like too much of a hassle for your lifestyle, then don’t choose catalogue shopping.

5. Pre-visit stores alone before taking your child to make sure they carry a wide enough selection of holiday clothing for chubby or overweight kids and teens. Boys are often easier to shop for than girls because you are probably looking for a suit or a pair of khakis and a sweater or blazer. The boys’ or men’s department of a department store; boys’ specialty clothing store; or a men’s discount clothing warehouse are your best places to go. But even so, pay them a visit first. It will be worth shopping at the one with, not only the widest range of sizes, but also the most patient sales people who will be sensitive to the feelings of an overweight boy who dreads clothing shopping. Shopping for girls is more complex. Your daughter will want a particular style, color and fabric. It can be tough to find fashionable clothes for overweight girls. But with enough time and planning, it’s definitely possible! Don’t take your daughter to a store that you know has no options for her – it will be a demoralizing experience.

6. Since most larger-sized kids and teens are shy about showing their bodies, shopping in stores with private, rather than communal, fitting rooms is a must. Trying to convince your child that ‘it’s no big deal’ will result in you being labeled insensitive and someone who ‘just doesn’t’ get it!’ This is another reason to check out stores in advance.

7. Often, overweight tweens and teens will be mortified to find themselves shopping at the same time as the neighborhood kids they consider ‘skinny,’ ‘cool,’ or otherwise ‘popular.’ And trust me, it won’t work to tell your daughter that it’s no big deal to be trying on size 12 or 14 in the fitting room right next door to two giggling size zeros, or your son that his ‘husky’ khakis are fine when the popular lacrosse player in the next fitting room is trying on ‘slims.’ You can usually avoid this problem by shopping at off times. For example, make a special occasion of it by taking your child out of school during lunch for a shopping trip. The missed school hours will be worth the saved self-esteem.

8. It can be helpful to shop in stores where there is a lot of sales assistance who can give you and your child ideas for outfits that you may not have thought of, or may not have seen. It also speeds up the process when there is someone to bring new clothes and take away the ones that aren’t working – leaving less time for conflict between you and your child!

9. If clothes shopping seems to end in tears and fighting no matter what you do, it may be easier to send your child or teen shopping with someone else – another relative or adult friend, or in the case of older teens, with their friends, or even alone.

These tips will be useful all year through, not just during the holidays, making for a happier and more peaceful relationship between you and your child. Happy Holidays!


Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized child, teen and parenting psychologist and award-winning author. Her latest book is Dr. Susan’s Kids-Only Weight Loss Guide: The Parent’s Action Plan for Success. You can learn more about Dr. Bartell at or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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