“I want those.”
The tiny voice cut through the gusting Chicago wind as it swept down through the Michigan Avenue skyscrapers and swirled around us. I looked down at my daughter Pearl in her stroller. She was pointing to my gloves.
“You want my gloves,” I thought, “when I just watched you take your own off half a dozen times. Ok…”
Of course I relented, burying her tiny hands in my gloves and then racing us inside the nearby Trader Joe’s. On the way back to our hotel, Pearl comfortably wore my gloves – and I was just glad when the pain my hands eventually turned to numbness.
Winter weather is officially here. So how do we, as parents, help our children with sensory difficulties wear those jackets, hats and gloves?
#1: Be prepared.
While my super-flexible son may be fine squishing his feet into last-year’s too-snug boots for the first snowfall, Pearl is a completely different situation. To avoid meltdowns, make sure you have all the clothing you need, in the right sizes, before you need them. And even after you purchase new gear, you still may need to do some prep work:
- Wash new, stiff clothes a few times to soften them up.
- Down filling tends to soften more than synthetic filling, but always be mindful of allergies when picking outerwear. Fleece is also a cozy alternative.
- Wash clothes with unscented detergent, and cut off all the tags.
- Try to avoid clothing with stiff or prominent seams, or collars that are inflexible. (I am the least sensory-defensive person I know, and I have a jacket that zips so close to my neck I feel like I’m choking. Keep those collars loose!)
#2: Tap into your child’s interests.
I have a student here at The Quaker School that will wear anything, as long as it has Super Girl’s logo on the center. And our super girl is totally awesome and rocks those jackets, hats and gloves with pride. Another one of our sensory-defensive boys has the coolest jacket – it looks like the uniform of an x-wing fighter pilot. So when selecting your winter gear:
- Let your child shop with you and help pick out their clothing.
- Buy duplicate items if you find something your learner is excited to wear.
- Have your child feel the fabrics and, if possible, try on the clothes before you purchase.
#3: Choose appropriate accessories.
In general, mittens are easier than gloves. But if your child won’t wear them, can he just wait for the bus with his hands in his warm pockets? And really, is a scarf worth fighting over? However, if you’re going skiing, of course your child needs gloves and more layers. Make sure to select the items that will make your lives easier, while being appropriate for the situation.
#4: Give your child enough time.
Not being in a rush makes the whole process of putting on hats, gloves and boots more pleasant. All of us take longer when we have to layer up, so make sure to leave extra time to remove extra stress. (And for children with fine and gross-motor difficulties, you may want to do a few dress rehearsals!)
#5: Enjoy and embrace it.
I have a friend who lives in Northern Maine, and she tells me you cannot actually survive the winter there – you can only love it. If you embrace the cold and look forward to the skiing, icicles, hockey, ice fishing, ice skating, snowball fights, snowmen and sledding, you will thrive.
Overall, remember to listen to your child. For students with sensory-processing difficulties, wearing the wrong clothes can feel just terrible. Work with your child to ease this process – and remember that you are bundling up in those winter clothes to have fun!
What tips do you have for easing the bundling-up process? Share with us in the comments below!