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Am I being a bad parent... by forcing my daughter to wear a dress for her First Communion?

‘She really doesn’t want to wear one… but I’m concerned she’ll be made to feel out of place.’

Image: Shutterstock/shutt2016

EACH WEEK IN our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out what to do about a tricky parenting situation.

To get a balanced view, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

Framed photos of family members on their First Communion day are a common decoration in many Irish homes. It’s a strongly traditional day – so is there ever room to break away from the norm?

This week, one mother is conflicted over her daughter’s request to not to wear a dress for her First Communion next year.

Have a parenting question you’d like some other mums and dads to weigh in on? Let us know anonymously here!

This week’s dilemma

My daughter is making her communion next year and she really doesn’t want to wear a dress. While I don’t mind the idea of her not wearing a dress, I’m very concerned about her feeling (or being made feel) out of place. She’s never liked dresses and has expressed that she really doesn’t want to wear one on her communion day. Her teacher said it would be fine if she didn’t wear a dress but still wore something appropriate, however I’d be much more comfortable with her wearing a dress just for the ceremony, and she’d be able to get changed afterwards. Am I being unreasonable by making this decision for her?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

Yes, I think you are being a little unreasonable. It sounds like your daughter won’t be comfortable in a dress. Maybe sit her down and chat with her about why she doesn’t want to wear one, about the occasion and what everyone else will be wearing, that photos will be taken and see if that changes her mind – or yours! If you think anyone in school will be particularly harsh or bullying about her not wearing a dress, maybe broach the compromise of a dress in church and a new outfit afterwards. If she still insists on no dress at all after considering all her options then she is probably old enough at eight to make that decision for herself.

I don’t think you’re being unreasonable. It’s understandable that you’d want to have a say in this decision. But forcing your child to do something she expressly feels uncomfortable about doing is a bad idea. You have a year, so there’s plenty of time for some gentle, sensitive discussions to try to figure out why it is that your daughter is against the dress idea. Who knows, maybe she’ll change her mind by next year, or maybe you’ll come around to her way of thinking.

You’re being unreasonable and premature. She’s making her communion next year, a lot can change between now and then for a child that age.  But the bigger point is about the message you’re giving your child if you do force her into wearing a communion dress that makes her genuinely uncomfortable.  She’s been told by the school that she has a choice which is a good thing. You should talk through that choice with her and why she doesn’t want to wear a dress and really question your own motives in wanting her to wear one.  I’m sure the last thing you would want is for your daughter to feel like she needs to conform just to make you and everyone else feel comfortable.

Yes, you’re being unreasonable. What on earth are you doing worrying about something that is happening next year? Have you not got more urgent crises to tackle? If not, you’re a better parent than me. Regardless though, it sounds like your daughter and the school have this in hand between them. Maybe leave them to it this time.

So what’s the final tally? Is this reader being unreasonable?

Yes – 3

No – 1

Tell us your thoughts in the comments! 

Have a parenting question you want answered? Let us know anonymously in our survey here or email us on family@thejournal.ie and we’ll put it to the real-life experts: your fellow mums and dads.

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More: Am I being a bad parent… by giving in when my three-year-old refuses to eat?>

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