Girl in cosplay wearing a green wig and holding merch from a con.
Cosplay, Parenting

Parents guide to cosplay

This guide looks at what cosplay is by going into detail about what is involved, what anime is, and what the social media TikTok is. There is a section on the pros and cons of cosplay and a video interview giving a child’s perspective. There is also a section that explains our own experience with Faith getting into cosplay and anime. The post finishes with tips for parents with children who want to cosplay. Please note that this post may contain affiliate links. For more information about what means, please click here

What is cosplay?

Simply put, cosplay is when you dress up in a costume of a character from a TV show, film, book, or game and act like the character. I personally think of it as an extension of acting or performing arts. Dressing up and roleplay has been a hobby for many different people for many years. However, access to the internet and mobile phones has made it much more accessible and therefore more popular over the last two decades. The Japanese anime and manga craze has also made cosplay much more popular in recent years, especially for young people.

Girl in cosplay as Deku wearing a green and black short wig and a my hero academia gym kit
Deku cosplay (Izuku Midoriya)
 

Getting into character

When a person has decided on a character that they would like to cosplay, the next step is to find the right costume, hair, and make-up. Cosplayers take a lot of time and pride in perfecting their look. They can often make items or customise their items to make sure that they are completely happy with their finished character.

Another variation on this is when a person takes a character and changes something. For example, a character known as a male can be cosplayed in a female version. A character who is normally sweet or a hero can be cosplayed as a villain.

Girl in cosplay as Villain Deku wearing black boots, ripped jeans, black waistcoat, white shirt and tie holding a hammer.
Villain Deku

Cosplay language

Cosplayers also have their own language which you may hear your child saying when they are talking about cosplaying. For example, canon means to act as the character would in the official storyline of the anime show. So, you could hear someone say ‘that is brilliant, it is so canon’. There is also ‘fanon’ which means something that is not official in the storyline but it is widely accepted by fans to further develop the storyline of the characters. 

What is anime?

Anime is Japanese animation and it has become extremely popular in recent years. Netflix has a large selection and there are also many sites on the internet which children can use to view different anime shows. A word of warning though. As a parent who is not familiar with anime, you could easily see your child watching ‘cartoons’ and think that it is aimed at kids.

However, most anime is actually aimed at older teenagers and adults. On Netflix, there are age ratings on each show. I just popped on to see what the age ranges were and there were only a couple rated parental guidance. The rest are all ’12’ and many are ’15’ and there are even a couple rated ’18’. If your children are young then you may need to help them find suitable shows to enjoy. 

My hero academia characters
[Photo credit: www.polygon.com] Character from my hero academia anime show

Danganronpa

I recently started watching an anime called Danganronpa. My daughter had become a fan and kept talking about it. She had brought a bear at a con that we had been to and I thought the bear looked quite cute. So you would think that it would be aimed at younger children, right?

Imagine my surprise when we sat down to watch it. It turned out that the bear is actually an evil character. He has locked a group of teenagers in a school and told them that the only way that they will be able to leave is if they can successfully murder another student and get away with it, laying the blame onto someone else! 

Black and white teddy bear and girl with bunches from the anime danganronpa
[Photo credit: danganronpa.fandom.com] Characters from the anime show Danganronpa

It probably sounds worse than it actually is, as being anime it is all bright colours and loud sound effects. The blood is pink and the psycho bear still looks cute to me so I don’t mind Faith watching it.

However, you can see how easy it could be to let your child watch something that you are not happy about. Lucky for Faith I am much more relaxed about things like this than other parents! Plus Faith is much more mature than her age which also needs to be considered when allowing your children to watch certain things. 

Fanfiction

Anime also has a lot of fanfiction. Fanfiction is basically stories written by fans of an anime show using the characters from the show. My daughter loves reading fanfiction and she has also written some of her own which is great. She is reading and writing stories, so developing her educational skills without even realising it. 

What is Tik Tok?

Tik Tok is an app that is popular amongst young cosplayers as they can lip-sync to almost any song. They can also do skits and connect with other like-minded people. I am sure that there are many other apps like this too. I am focussing on Tik Tok as I know a lot of cosplayers who use it. It is not just for cosplayers, many people use it for all types of things. There are also a lot of people who do not post content themselves but enjoy watching other peoples. 

As with any type of social medial and young people, there can be risks involved. There are privacy settings that can be turned on to private and blocking functions to stop people from sending messages. Tik Tok has the age restriction for accounts at 13 years but I know many younger children who have accounts. My daughter uses Tik Tok and she is younger. I have given her permission and monitor what she posts and who she communicates with. 

Like I said before, I am a very relaxed parent as I believe that it is better to support interests and get involved than just say no. Very often just because a parent has said no, it does not mean that your child will not still manage to access things. However, they will not have any adult supervision or support as they will be doing it in secret for fear of getting in trouble. It is far better to be involved so that you can educate your children on how to use social media responsibly. That way they know that they can come to you should they need any help or support. 

What is a con?

A con is short for convention. You may have heard of ComicCon before, which was mainly for people who were interested in comics originally, but over the years these have grown to include all sorts of things, anime included. There are also more specific cons as well, like the Norwich Anime and Gaming Con which we went to in the Summer. These are a great way for cosplayers to make new friends who share their interests. Faith has made friends at all of the cons that we have been to so far.

They have speakers, costume contests, games, lots of merchandise and can be a lot of fun. Some of them run for two days or even three and Faith absolutely loves going to them. They can be expensive though as if your children are anything like mine, they will want to buy everything!  

Girl wearing a short black and green wig and a white t-shirt with black Japanese writing across it.
At the Norwich Anime and Gaming Con

Our story

For us, it was well over a year ago that Faith first got into cosplay. I remember when she asked me to order her a wig from eBay. I was so confused as I had no idea that she was interested in cosplay at that time and I had never been asked to buy a wig for one of my kids before! However, I knew that she had been struggling to make friends and at this time she was still attending regular school. She was in year six at primary school but very quiet and a bit withdrawn. So, I brought her the wig and to be honest, thought it was just a one-off thing and didn’t really think much more about it at the time.

However, Faith really enjoyed cosplay and it wasn’t long before I realised that she has a real passion for it. It was nice to see her get excited about something, so I started asking her questions about it. Through discussions with Faith and a bit of my own online research, I discovered that there is a whole community of cosplayers.

Cosplay an animatronic character
An animatronic character

Attending cons

In February 2019 I made the decision to home school Faith as she was so unhappy at school and I felt that it would be much better for her and our family.  In June 2019 I read about a ComicCon in our town and asked Faith if she would like me to take her. By this time she was a lot more confident than she had been when attending school so she said that she would like to go. She got dressed up as a character from her favourite anime and when we were waiting to go in, I was just praying that there would be others dressed up and into anime.

It was fantastic to see so many different characters in one place and even better when other people were coming over and asking to have photographs with Faith. I was so glad that I took her as she made friends with some other children in our town who also love to cosplay and we have not looked back since! 

Girl in cosplay as Katsuki Bakugo. Wearing a short blond wig, black and orange hoodie and white shirt.
Cosplaying Katsuki Bakugo

Getting involved

As a parent, I feel that it is our responsibility to make the effort and find out what our kids are interested in. I decided that the best way to understand cosplay would be to actually do it myself! So, I spent a day dressing up and making Tik Tok videos with Faith. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and I can’t help but cringe when I look at the videos we made (I was definitely not blessed with the ability to cosplay well!) but it brought us so much closer and we laughed so much. 

 

Cosplay and anime is not something that I am personally interested in myself but it has sparked a passion in Faith. Therefore, anything that my kids are interested in becomes my interest as I want to support them in what makes them happy. Below is a short video that we made where I ask Faith a few questions about cosplay. 

Why is my child different?

Some parents are not happy with their child doing something unconventional like cosplay. I think that a lot of this is because they do not understand it. Or they are embarrassed as it is not the ‘normal’ teenage hobby. However, if it interests your child and makes them happy then surely that should be a good thing?! Are we not supposed to teach our kids to make their own decisions rather than be a sheep and follow the crowd? 

I would much rather have a child who spends all their free time styling wigs, making costumes, and cosplaying. Rather than being out on the streets getting up to who knows what!

Faith styling her wig at the kitchen table
Wig styling!

Some people do not like kids going out in cosplay in public places but I see no harm in this. If you are a football fan, you would think nothing of your kids going out in the football shirt or kit of your team. Therefore, why should people that love to cosplay not be able to do the same? Also, a lot of people feel much more comfortable in cosplay rather than in their day to day wear. 

I have talked at length with Faith about how people will stare. They will wonder why she is dressed that way and there is the possibility of people being rude as they do not understand. Anything ‘different’ is often a target for bullying. However, I really admire that she doesn’t care what people think. She loves to cosplay and refuses to let anyone’s ignorance spoil what she loves to do. 

Ochaco Uraraka cosplay

Links to the LGBT community

One thing that we have noticed is that the cosplay community has strong links with the LGBT community. I think that this is down to a couple of things. The first is that when you cosplay you can experiment and cosplay different genders. Secondly, because many people feel lost and are struggling with their identity so playing a character gives them an escape. These are just my opinions, I am not an expert in these matters. 

However, it would seem that a large proportion of cosplayers are LGBT or have experienced trauma such as bullying. I would think that it is even more of a reason that us parents should support and encourage this activity which helps them to express themselves and makes them happy. 

What are the positives of having a child who cosplays?

  • It takes up a great deal of their time leaving less chance for boredom and unruly behaviour! 
  • Performance art is a skill that they will advance through cosplay.
  • Confidence increases.
  • Bonds can be made within the cosplay community.
  • It allows kids to experiment and express themselves.
  • It creates a great opportunity for you to bond as they teach you all about their newfound passion.

For more positives from cosplay check out my post, here

Girl in cosplay wearing a black wig with dark make up
One of Faith’s scarier cosplays!

What are the negatives of having a child who cosplays?

  • It can get expensive with all of the wigs, costumes, cons, and merch!
  • People can be cruel when they see people dressed up.
  • As with any type of social media use, there are risks involved.
  • Many of the songs used on Tik Tok have bad language.
  • Anime may not be suitable for younger children.
Girl in light gray leggins, a pink top, long pink wig and black cat ears
Loving all of the pink!

Tips on being a parent of a cosplayer!

  • Ask questions and get involved in what they like. You may only get grunts and eye rolls at first but if you keep showing interest without judgement eventually they will start to talk more with you. Then they won’t stop talking and they will enjoy teaching you all about it.
  • Watch the videos that they make in cosplay.
  • Watch anime with them or whatever it is that they cosplay.
  • Have a go at cosplaying with your child as I did!
  • Take them to cons (even if you can not afford all of them. Discuss this with your child and work out which ones they can attend).
  • Support friendships that they have made with fellow cosplayers by inviting them over for dinner or sleepovers. 
  • Support them, accept them, and make them know that they are fully loved, accepted, and supported by you. 
Girl in cosplay at the dinner table sitting next to a dog.
Dinner with Deku, like you do!

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36 Comments

  1. says:
    Thank you so much for this information!
  2. Kiera says:
    As a cosplayer it is so good to see parents getting involved!! It is such a great hobby and there's no harm in it! To any parents unsure about their children cosplaying, just think of how you let your child dress up for Halloween - this is no different! This is fun and enjoyable and lots of skills can be picked up from cosplay!
    1. says:
      Thanks for commenting and I agree. My daughter has improved her skills in sewing, art and design, dance, and performance and her confidence has increased too.
  3. Mary says:
    I am desperate to find other families with cosplaying kids that are interested in virtual interaction during this pandemic. My kid is an only child and is having a very difficult time with the isolation. She's also very much into the queer community. Please.... anyone have any ideas??
    1. says:
      Hey Mary. It is really hard at the moment, isn't it? I would normally suggest going to local cosplay events but with everything canceled due to COVID that can't happen. I don't know how old your child is or if they are on social media but perhaps searching up local cons and seeing if they have online forums for kids to chat. I know that the Amine and Gaming Leauge has an online forum where people can connect. This is a group that hosts cons throughout the year that we have been to before. I am sorry that I can not be more help xx
  4. Tracey says:
    I have just read your blog. Thank you!! My daughter is 13 - going on 18! She has been crazy about anime ever since reading Sailor Moon. I do get worried about her obsession with cosplay. She is quiet and appears to liven up once dressed in her favourite characters. She has been to a few cons, but fed up as this year all are cancelled. But there is a Danganronpa 'meet up' in Coventry City in August. She really wants to go but I'm worried as she don't know any of these people. I of course will take her, but still it's a worry and not sure if I'm doing the right thing.
    1. says:
      Hi Tracey :-) Thanks so much for commenting. It is really hard being a parent and trying to decide the best thing to do, especially with everything going on at the moment. I think if you are staying with her then it would be a good idea providing the event is complying with COVID-19 rules. It is so hard for cosplay kids, I know my daughter has been really struggling, not being able to attend events and see friends. When I took my daughter to her first con in our town, she did not know anyone. At the con, I followed her around and when she made friends with other kids I kept in the background so I didn't show her up! The friends she made that day are still some of her closest friends nearly two years later. However, you need to make the final decision as you need to be happy with what you are doing. I hope that all goes well for you and your daughter xx
      1. Tracey says:
        Thank you. Yes no one she knows locally here are into cosplay as much as she is. Sometimes I wish I was a young mum so I felt ok dressing up too lol. It's hard to make friends on line as I don't let her give any personal details. I think I might search Fb for local cosplay kids! ;-)
    2. Nicky says:
      Hello Tracey I have a girl who is 11 she is a cosplayer her thing atm is danganronpa . She is very quiet and found it hard to mix so we now home school . I am going to try and find details of the coventry meet up because she could do with meeting a few friends with the same interests she has very low confidence but seems to come into her own when in cosplay. If you will be going maybe we could arrange for the girls to meet there i will be taking her we've never been to anything like this before so I know she will be abit shy.
      1. Tracey says:
        Hello Nicky, We didn't go to Coventry in the end due to lockdown etc. It's ruined a lot of meet ups this year at conventions. When we can start to feel free to go to cons again my daughter would love to meet yours at one the MANY comic cons and it's worth looking into Hyper Japan at in London it's great! But you can message me back here if you like once things are up and running again ;-)
  5. Jen says:
    Thank you everyone for your comments! It's really helpful to know that Im not the only parent going through the same situation. I have been supporting my 13 y/o daughter with her cosplay but to be honest it was a bit scary at the beginning. I decided to get informed in order to make the right decisions and Im glad I did. I still struggle though with the idea that my daughter is getting more and more into the cosplay in her daily activities ( e.g. going to the mall or school)... I really would like to know what is your opinion regarding this. Is it ok to let them wear heavy make up with alternative( goth) clothing? Or cosplay to school?
    1. says:
      In the UK kids have to wear a school uniform so that is not something that I would ever have to consider and Faith is homeschooled anyway. I do let her go out to shops or parks in cosplay but I have discussed with her at great length how to stay safe and the fact that being different can attract nasty people. It is a worry but at the same time why should she have to hide who she is.
  6. Christina Moreno says:
    My daughter recently started cosplaying, idk much about it I'm trying figure this all out. Wanting to stay in character worries me, that she would slowly lose her own identity be and take on characters. Is the amount of violence not a problem. I've noticed my daughter become lil more aggressive. And seeing a couple these anime to things I see possibility of why. Most of the cosplayers I watched on her time too seem to have issues like I'm sure a lot of us myself included have however is it a possibility for kids to pick up in characteristics of these popular cosplayers. Im not trying to criticize I'm trying to understand all this, any input is greatly appreciated. Thank you for the blog was informative.
    1. says:
      I think it's important to try and understand things from the kid's point of view. I know my daughter loves cosplaying and some of the characters are scary with (fake) blood on their faces and holding (fake) knives but it is just like acting in a play. My daughter knows that it is pretend and we often discuss how violence is bad. People used to blame kids violence on video games and before those it was TV so I do not think that we can blame cosplay or anime for how our children behave. There are actually a lot of benefits to cosplaying. Cosplay is a way for kids to express themselves without actually harming themselves or anyone else. Ultimately you need to do what you believe is best for you and your child but in my opinion, cosplay can be a great hobby for kids, it is just strange to us grown-ups as we do not know so much about it.
  7. Laura says:
    Thankyou so much this has really helped me as my daughter is 12 tommorow and asking for anime outfit and wig and I nearly had a meltdown and I did say no .. but now I feel I shud say yes .. as iv always encouraged her to not be a sheep and like and wear what she wants no matter others think .. she doesnt have many friends so I hope this helps her find some .. thankyou once again xx
    1. says:
      Hi Laura You are more than welcome. I hope it helped as I know it can be scary when you first hear about something which you do not know much about. Hopefully, with your support, your daughter will find her confidence and friends enjoying this new hobby. xx
  8. Neil Goodfellow says:
    Wow, I just stumbled across your article after doing a quick goggle. My daughter has just got off FaceTime from some ‘friends’ who just mocked her for cosplaying. Needless to say she is upset. It’s nice to read some tips on how to be a cosparent! As a ‘geek’ myself (if I’m allowed to say that!) and into dungeons and dragons etc I expect she has followed my lead a little. Thanks for the article!
    1. says:
      Thank you for commenting. I hope your daughter is not too upset with so-called friends! Sounds like you are on board to support her which is fantastic :-)
  9. says:
    I saw this and I am a kid I really want to cosplay but my mom doesn't support me and she hates anime and thinks anime and cosplay is weird but yet I still really want to cosplay do you have any tips?
    1. says:
      also my mom thinks it is a waste of money :(
      1. Bettina de Beer says:
        I also want to thank you for posting this. We've had some very similar experiences with our daughter and cosplay. We are all sad that there aren't any cosplay events happening near us lately. But it is nice that cosplay is some thing that can be done during covid.
        1. says:
          Thank you for your support :-) It means a lot to know that other parents are supporting their kids and enjoying all that cosplay has to offer. xx
  10. says:
    HI! I'm a kid my self and I really want to cosplay but my mom thinks its weird and a waste of money and she doesn't let me tell her my side of the story. :(
    1. says:
      Hello :-) I am really sorry to hear this. Maybe you could get your mum to read some articles from parents who have kids that cosplay, like this one, so that she could see that it is a good thing. Also, maybe you could write a list of all of the benefits of cosplaying and why you want to do it and then discuss this with your mum. It is so difficult when parents do not understand but I am sure your mum is just trying to do her best for you. I hope that you and your mum can find a way for you to both be happy xx
      1. says:
        thank you!
  11. shelby says:
    Hello! I am a 12 year old girl looking to cosplay. My mom said that she thinks getting on an app and dressing up as a character is inappropriate. I have tried to explain to her that it is just like getting into a halloween costume and going trick or treating, but she will still not listen. Everytime I bring it up it starts an argument. Any help?
    1. says:
      Hello, thanks for getting in touch. I am really sorry to hear this. Often parents get scared about things that they do not fully understand. How about trying to see if your mum would read some articles about the positive aspects of cosplay. Another thing that you could try is writing down how you feel and why you really want to get into cosplay and then giving the letter to your mum. That way she can read it without you being there so it allows you to get your points across without having an argument. It is so hard when parents do not understand and agree with such a great activity. I really hope that both you and your mum can come to a solution which you are both happy with.
  12. Imogen K says:
    Hello. I am a 13 year old cosplayer and I have to say, this article is just great!! My mother and father do support me in my cosplay and they are both fine about it. It's just that my mother and father do not like TikTok very much. I do have the app but not an account. I'm too scared to tell my mum that I want to share my cosplays on TikTok as she will not let me have a phone till I am 16. I know the risks of having a social media account and I am very aware. Are there any tips to try and convince my mother to let me have TikTok to post my cosplays. Thank you so much. <3
    1. says:
      Hello :-) Thank you for your lovely words. Perhaps you could see if your mum or dad would be happy to manage a TikTok account for your cosplay with you. So they could watch and help you shoot the cosplay tiktoks and then set aside a set amount of time which they can supervise if they are worried, that you can reply to other cosplayers etc.. Maybe after a while of seeing that you are sensible and it is okay, they would then let you have more time and not have to be so involved. I hope that makes sense and I hope that you manage to come to an agreement with your parents that you are all happy with. xx
  13. jaz says:
    My little 11 year old sister plays on this game, it is extremely unsafe and highly sexualised, too much for an 11 year old! If it was just dressing up it would be fine. But its not! I've researched this heavily, even watched YouTube videos with cosplayers explaining what it is, what it's all about, whom I might add are all over 18. The fact it is all over tik tok too with older teenagers and adults acting in a very sexualised weird way does not sit well. This game should not be allowed for young children. Teenagers and older yes, but not for younger than 13. There definitely should be an age limit on this game.
    1. says:
      It is great that you are looking out for your sister. However, cosplay is just dressing up and lip-syncing to sound clips from shows and music tracks. Putting an age limit only makes it even more attractive to young kids as anything they are not old enough to do always is! As long as they are being monitored and having fun, cosplay is for any age.
  14. Lewis Martin says:
    Hi there, I am a 13 year old boy (14 in a few months' time) who has recently in the past 2-3 months become increasingly interested in the topic of cosplay, specifically what I want to do is to cosplay as Spiderman. I have done lengthy research as to what websites I should order from, and I have found a site called Zentaizone which sells good quality, low-cost Spiderman suits. In the reviews I have read and the vidoes I have watched, the suits are amazing quality and people say they are well worth it. I am in the process of enquiring to them about a sponsorship. The thing is, I have never really been interested in Spiderman that much up until about 3 months ago, and it would be hard to explain to my parents about why I suddenly like the character so much and why I want to "dress up" as him. I'm also really quite nervous and apprehensive about trying to tell my parents about me wanting to do cosplay, as before when I have tried to tell them face to face about other so-called "not teenage boy hobbies" I say one sentence and then get shut down immediately. I don't want to be thought of as a "weird", "strange", "unusual", or even "gay" child by my parents, yet I know I really want to get a few suits and enjoy cosplaying as Spiderman It would be me paying for the suits with my own money, and potentially getting a couple of free ones as part of the sponsorship. I would be posting videos on YouTube on suit reviews, tutorials, beginners guides and Spiderman suit showcases. What I really want to show by posting these videos on YT is that cosplay isn't just for small kids or "weirdos" as my parents might put it, and that everyone can enjoy it - but when I can't even convince my own parents, I feel lost. Is there any advice or tips you could give me about trying to tell my parents and maybe convincing them to let me get some Spiderman suits? I would be really nervous to tell them face to face, so are there any othe effective ways? And also how would I be able to change their opinions on cosplay (at the moment they think it is "silly" and just for little kids, and I know 100% that if I asked them now it would not go dow well.) I would really appreciate your help on this, and thank you for your time, Regards, Lewis
    1. says:
      Hello Lewis, thank you for your message. I can tell that you have given cosplaying a lot of thought and you put your ideas down really well. Have you thought about writing a letter or recording a video for your parents explaining all of this, so you do not have to do it face to face? Many teenage boys cosplay, there is nothing 'wrong' or 'weird' about it. You can gain a lot of positive skills doing it and also make new friends who also enjoy it. When you do talk about it to your parents, make sure and explain how it is like acting or performing and that you would really like their support. I really hope that you manage to get your parents on board and that you have loads of cosplay fun.
      1. Lewis Martin says:
        Thank you ever so much for your thoughts, this has really improved my confidence. I know that many boys cosplay, just that I need to make sure that my parents understand this too! I will try writing a letter and compiling some articles, maybe photos and "evidence" together if you like, so they can get the full picture. Thank you so much for your time, and I will let you know of the outcome.
  15. sho says:
    as a young cosplayer i do have to say reading this made me quite happy that parents are getting involved and i would also like to say that your childs cosplays are amazing and should keep up the good work
    1. says:
      Thank you so much for your lovely words :-)

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