July 16, 2024
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Winter Clothing Horrors!

My daughter is five years old and seems to hate her clothes. Most of the time we muddle through but when the weather turns cold we have a battle every morning. She does not want to wear sleeves, or a jacket, or tights or leggings. Some days it’s a struggle to get closed shoes on her! I feel like I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to be working. Our mornings are a nightmare. Please help before the snow comes!

It sounds like your child is experiencing some sensitivity to clothing. The change from one season to another can be very stressful and challenging for children with sensory processing difficulties. As therapists, we often find that Sukkot and Pesach are very difficult times for many of our children. Transitioning from the daily wearing of sandals and shorts to long sleeves, socks, jackets, leggings and tights can be uncomfortable and upsetting. This can be true for many adults as well! Once they finally adjust to all of the extra clothing, spring comes and the children then have to adjust all over again to the shedding of clothing.

So, now that we have that said, what are we supposed to do to help our children get through these difficult transitions?

Obviously, since we have not met your child, it is impossible to decide what the primary issue is, but for the sake of this article, we are assuming that she is experiencing sensory hypersensitivity. As the weather begins to change, it is a helpful tactic to start talking to our children about the upcoming change in the weather and showing them clothing that they will begin to wear soon. Your child can even try on these warmer clothing and wear them a little around the house, just to get used to the feeling. Remember, that as with many other issues in parenting our children, a little planning goes a long way. In that vein, it would be a good idea to start choosing clothing together the night before. Give your child two, maximum three, options to choose from.

Even though your child’s issues with clothing are sensory in nature, meaning they are physically uncomfortable or cause some other type of reaction, your child may be able to control the reaction somewhat. We have found that the use of positive reinforcement charts can be highly effective. Your consistency will help make the chart most useful. Keep in mind that the chart and reward must be age appropriate in nature. Additionally, please make sure that you are very clear with your child what the expectation/goal is for the chart. So, for example, if you are using this suggestion for your young child, maybe age 3-5, your goal might be that your child wears a jacket every day to school and each day receives a sticker. If your child is older, like 5-7, you can have two goals such as the one above and add in “wearing socks” and your child will receive a check for each day. Four checks gets your child a bigger prize such as an ice cream cone or a prize from a prize box. You can definitely use “extra alone time with a parent” as a prize. As your child gets older, you can make the list of goals longer and you can make a more complex reward system for bigger prizes for greater amounts of checks.

Two rules with positive reinforcement systems: 1)We do not take away stickers, checks or rewards, and 2) our chart does not get to be the dumping ground of every single thing we want to fix in our child. It is strictly for clothing wearing to help through these transition periods.

In some cases, however, despite your consistent follow through, your child may not demonstrate improvement. If this is your experience, and you have implemented all of the suggestions listed above, that might mean that your child needs the intervention of a qualified pediatric OT. Your OT will implement a program both for the clinic as well as for you to follow through at home. Best of luck for a warm winter!

Alyssa Colton MA, OTR/L and Aviva Lipner MA, OTR/L are pediatric occupational therapists and owners of Kids’ Therapy Place, LLC, and Kids’ Therapy Toy Store. They can be reached at [email protected].

By Alyssa Colton MA. OTR/L and Aviva Lipner MA, OTR/L

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