Winter is a time of change and stress for our children. The days are shorter and the weather gets colder. Changing from fall to winter clothes brings many challenges for our children. With all the layers and extra clothing (gloves, scarves, hats, boots, etc.), dressing for winter can be a stressful and complicated process.
It is very important to note that everyone, to some extent, experiences the challenges our children face with winter clothes. Who has not found the beautiful wool sweater from our favorite aunt too itchy to wear? Who has not found the extremes of going from feeling very cold to hot and sweaty disconcerting? Who has not felt “weighed down” by the bulk and weight of winter clothes? The significant difference is that we are able to identify and express what makes us feel uncomfortable, make changes to increase our comfort, and understand that the unpleasant feelings we are experiencing are only temporary. However, once we gain an understanding of the sensory and communication challenges that our children experience, we can employ strategies to lessen the stressors they experience with winter clothes.
Use Social Stories
Social stories can help with the transition from fall to winter clothes and prove useful throughout the winter. For example, making a slide show or photograph albums of the child and her significant others wearing winter clothes.
Provide Visual Supports
Using communication devices, photographs/picture symbols, signs will enable your child to identify and express their discomfort (e.g., hurts, itchy, don’t like).
Use an Activity Schedule
Use an activity schedule to help your child sequence the steps necessary for putting on winter garments and anticipate the end of the activity. Also, encourage your child to be an active participant in the activity.
Look for Winter Garments with Smooth Fabrics and Minimal Bulks
Long sleeve hiking tops are ideal for fluctuations in temperature. They are constructed to keep you warm with minimum bulk, have wicking qualities that absorb sweat, and the texture of the fabric is smooth. In addition, these shirts are thin enough for a child to wear a preferred T-shirt over it! Winter coats made from a Thinsulate fabric are warm, reflect rain or snow, and are lightweight.
Prepare Clothes the Night Before
Encourage your child to choose and lay out their clothing the night before. This eliminates one step in the morning when we are typically in a rush. Additionally, giving our children a choice in the selection of what to wear encourages choice making, empowers them, provides insight into their preferences (texture, color, etc.), and may lead to more positive behaviors related to dressing.
Provide Ample Time to Get Dressed
Provide ample time in the morning for your child to dress themselves. In addition, create a calm and unhurried atmosphere. The additional steps needed to get out during the winter months are difficult for everyone and our children pick up on our stress.
If you notice your child touching the back of his neck, consider removing the tags in his clothing. What may seem like an insignificant irritant to you could be perceived as very distressful for our children.
A slight adaptation can make a huge difference. For example, the use of a zipper pull could enable your child to manipulate his zipper. Additionally, clothes that are on the loose side are easier to put on and take off and are generally more comfortable. Consider using gloves instead of mittens. While gloves may be challenging to put on, they will provide your child with more dexterity for functional and leisure activities.