Dear Rachel,

I was so excited when my teenage daughter told me she wanted to attend a Purim party. Being that she does not seem so interested in Judaism, I thought this was such a positive step, until I saw what she plans on wearing for her costume. Basically, I am humiliated as it is inappropriate for any atmosphere, let alone a Purim party. I realize that these are the typical costumes that teenagers these days are wearing, but how can I let her know how I feel and yet still encourage her move to celebrate Purim this year?

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

I hear your dilemma, as you want to encourage her to go and to support her involvement, and yet the way she is going about it is far from ideal. Furthermore, you are clearly stepping on toes by criticizing her choice of costume because she is a teenager, after all, and this is clearly something she is excited about and wants to wear—and chances are that she is concerned more with being cool than with being appropriate.

So what to do?

Well, there is no real easy answer, but I do have a few suggestions for you. For starters, is there anyone else in the community that she respects, and who will be at the party? Is there another woman whom she likes and looks up to? If so, try speaking to that person and explaining the problem. Ask if that person can call your daughter and tell her how excited she is that she is coming. Then let her ask your daughter what costume she will be wearing. Maybe, if she has to describe to someone she respects what it will be like, she will recognize on her own that it is inappropriate for a Purim costume, and will change it by herself.

Another idea is to print out some great articles for her about Purim and the power of Esther. The irony, of course, is that this is the holiday where we celebrate the concept of beauty and power as a Jewish woman, and it sounds like her chosen costume is the antithesis of that. Maybe, if she were to learn more about the meaning of the holiday and the role model she has in the story of Purim, she will be interested in a costume that reflects the spirit of the day, and not current society.

And perhaps the easiest and best idea might be to replace it altogether. A general rule with all children is that we can’t give them (or even insinuate) a “no” without finding a “yes” that can be the substitute. As much as possible, you want to support your daughter’s decision to attend this Purim party and try to keep negativity away. If anything, we learn from Esther that the best way of getting rid of a problem is allowing it to reveal itself rather than directly pointing it out. So I think you want to take an Esther approach with this one!

So what can be your “yes” to the “no” that you feel towards this costume? Well, what if you were to go out and find her a beautiful costume? And I mean a really nice one. And it might be costly, but it will be worth it. What if you find her a gorgeous Queen Esther costume (or any queen costume), or something that will make her feel and look beautiful, but in an appropriate way? Maybe give it to her as a surprise, and tell her that you were so proud that she decided to go that you wanted to give her this gift, and you really hope she likes it. Explain that her qualities of strength and beauty remind you of Queen Esther, and you thought she would love the costume. (Now if you know she will never wear such a thing, then find an appropriate costume that you know she will wear and love, and one that she feels is a real gift!)

If she receives a gift from you, chances are she will be moved that you bought her something, and ideally will want to wear it because she will like it. And even if that is not the motivator, she will most likely feel obligated to wear it since it was a gift from you. You can even tell her, “I know you had a costume, but I thought you would just love this, and I spent hours trying to find the perfect one, and I can’t wait to see you in it!” I mean, if a little Jewish mother’s guilt doesn’t work, I don't know what will!

So, I hope these suggestions are helpful. And I hope that Purim is truly a time of celebration for you and your daughter.