Unlike most of the teenagers, my 13-year-old niece doesn't care about her appearance at all. She does what is necessary hygiene - shover, teeth brushing - but not a bit more.

She wears sweatpants and/or different really bright colors together, so she usually looks like a parrot. Yes, for school, too. She barely combs her hair, either, it looks like a giant birds nest.

I'm not saying that she shouldn't be wearing what she likes or force a given style on her, but I think that the root of the problem is that no one taught her how to dress appropriately. Her mother is ill, she can't even take care of herself, and her father struggles to keep the family afloat.

Additionally, my niece can't stand staying somewhere overnight without her parents, so I can't invite her over to "work on her". They also live 1.5 hours away from us, so it's not easy to hop in for a quick visit.

Her appearance is a big problem, as her classmates have ostracized her because she looks ridiculous, so she has no friends. It's a vicious cycle: the fewer friends she has, the less she cares, which, again, results in fewer friends.

Next year she'll start high school, and I think she needs some changes before that, because she has no social life whatsoever as of now, and I don't think that's healthy.

Can you give me some advice on how to achieve positive changes in her attitude to clothing and cosmetology?

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    if her dad is overwhelmed, could you offer her a 'spa' day? Hair, makeup and mani- pedi?
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 3:55
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    Sounds like me at that age. I never grew out of it, I just found better people to surround myself with.
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 23:32
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    I don't understand why this is a big deal at all. I was also oblivious about clothing at that age. I lived in a world of books and computers and hobbies and math. It took me until 19 to realize that what I wore mattered. She'll grow out of it.
    – user19750
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 5:44
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    adding another "that was me at her age" :) Highschool for me consisted of video games. I didn't really care for the frivolity of highschool life and much preferred to kill digital things. I grew out of it eventually although I still can't be much bothered to keep up with the "fast fashion" and never did learn how to use makeup properly... Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 17:39
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    Perhaps, with everything that's going on at home, she not only feels like that's time and energy she doesn't have to put into it, but that doing so for something that shallow and frivolous will somehow seem selfish or trivialize what's going on with her mom. Perhaps she finds it appropriate that her outward appearance to the world matches how she feels right now. I'm not sure your priorities and emphasis are on target. She's got a lot going on right now, You perhaps should focus on listening to her and finding out what she needs in the way of support, and not trying to superficially "fix." Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


With that background, is getting her into some kind of therapy or at least in contact with a school counsellor an option? OR get someone to help the family in the household? Perhaps even both.
I am asking because with the background you describe, her looks really seem just a symptom!

She is 13.
Her mother is very ill.
Her father is barely keeping things afloat financially, and working a lot.
It sounds like not only she doesn't have anyone to teach her about looks, is sound like she may be handling her schoolwork without help, AND may have a lot responsibility in the household. That is all speculation on my part for now, but with the background you describe, that does sound very likely.

Do not focus on how she looks... focus on how she FEELS! If she feels she has the time to do things like color-coordinate her clothing, and take care of her looks, AND feels she is worthy of and entitled to look good... that's when you have her in the right spot!

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    I know her feelings are the most important, but I've never noticed that she has psychological troubles. My grandparents help them a lot, and talk a lot with her - I try to do so too - and they never suggested she would need a therapist. She handles the whole situation surprisingly well except the appearance thing. This is why l try to solve that. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 12:28
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    this site was a bit daunting for me because I am more used to discussion forums. It is hard for people to see the entire picture when we ask questions. So, if you feel like we are not understanding you, chances are -- we aren't. Try to clarify until you think we do understand better.
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 18:07

If she were a black lipstick girl, would you feel any different? How about tie-dyes with hemp jewelry? Barely legal slut outfits?

If you want her to focus more on her appearance, you're asking her to come to your level of reasoning. Good luck with that in a 13-yo.

If you instead ask her why she likes to mismatch her clothes and not brush her hair, you will get an honest answer. You're wording will only succeed if you completely and entirely ignore what you want.

The answer she gives must be respected with something other than "but what about...".

At that point, you might be able to get your opinion in, but you're more likely to alienate her. Taking her to a spa will backfire: she will interpret that as you don't love her for who she is.

Best thing you can legitimately do is buy her outfits for birthdays, Christmas, etc. However, you may be better off with gift cards to a variety clothing store so you're not perceived as pushing her. I'm partial to Gap myself, good value for the quality and not too trendy.


When my daughter was 13 (7th grade) she pretty much went through the same thing. She didn't care about brushing her hair, just threw on whatever, and getting her to brush her teeth was a chore too, but, I feel it's typical for that age. Going through puberty & figuring out who you are, awkwardness. When she hit 14 she started making subtle changes in her appearance each month until a year later had changed completely. This is just the beginning of many teenage phases she will go through I feel.

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