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5 Tips for Transitioning Kids to Summer Clothes

Parenting • Apr 30, 2023 1:37:59 PM • Written by: Bethany Correia

Do you have a kiddo that wants to wear their winter clothes in the summer?

Then this post is for you! The struggle to get some kiddos to transition clothing seasonally can be a big challenge. They feel so comfy in their usual clothes, and they don't want to make any change that will disrupt their level of comfort. So how do you, as a parent, help them? As you've surely learned by now, there is no one answer. There's no one-size-fits-all solution in parenting. But, there are strategies you can use to help your little one.

1) Encourage a mix of seasonal clothing at home all year long. Keep in and out-of-season clothes easily accessible at all times.
In their drawers and closets, they can find a mix of shorts, sweat pants, jeans, khakis, skirts, dresses, sweaters, button ups, t-shirts, etc. When you're staying in and lounging around the house, have them wear both in-season and off-season items. This encourages flexibility and can help maintain and/or train their comfort level in different types of clothing. Don't worry too much about them being too cold (or too hot) - more on that below. For this tip, just focus on getting them to wear a variety of clothing types while at home. Even if they end up changing after a little while of being in their not-so-favorite items, that is still great progress. These baby steps will make it much easier when you get to a situation where you "need" them to wear something particular.
If you have one of our friends with sensory needs that limit them to a very particular style of clothing, I get it. This exact approach may not work, but baby steps will. Consider what a "baby step" might be for your kiddo. For example, just having different types of clothing in their drawers and in view may be enough of a baby step. Or, maybe you do a hyper quick try on from time to time. For example, it's summer and they love long sleeves. Before you put on their long sleeve shirt in the morning, quickly put on (and quickly take off) a short-sleeve shirt. Slowly increase the length of time they're in the new shirt, from just a few seconds, to minutes, to hours and eventually the whole day. 
2) Let them get (slightly) uncomfortable as a natural consequence. 
If it’s 80°F outside, and they want to bundle up in winter gear at home, let them. Or it’s -10°F, and they want to wear shorts and a tank top inside, let them. Especially if you can control the temperature inside with heat or air conditioning. Of course, keep their safety in mind. For some kiddos who can't regulate their own body temperature or have other safety needs, this strategy likely won't work. 
But if your kiddo can regulate their body temperature, and may respond to getting a little uncomfortable, try it out. Here's how it works:
  • Let them wear whatever they want.
  • Let them get uncomfortable - a little too hot or a little too cold in their current outfit.
  • Then, gently suggest they take off a layer, or add a layer, or even change into something else.
  • Stay patient. Do this when you're home and you don't need to leave for a specific activity. This way, you can manage the transition without extra pressure on you or your kiddo.
  • When you make the suggestion, place a highly preferred activity right after the change to quickly distract and encourage them. Make sure the preferred activity happens immediately. Waiting even two minutes for the activity can give time for a meltdown. For example: When your show is done, it’s time to take off your sweater and then we can play with your color changing cars - I have the ice and hot water all set up and ready!
3) Create a social story.
If your child is nuerodivergent, you're probably pretty familiar with social stories. If not, check out this helpful post from Autism Parenting Magazine
Here's a few dos and don'ts on how to make social stories work for the seasonal clothing transition:
  • Do build a social story (or adapt a template) that works for your family. You can grab an existing template, or take out Google Slides, Canva or even pen and paper and make your own. Just make sure it's relevant for your family.
  • Don't only use it when you're "making" your child wear a new outfit as this can cause an aversion to the story itself.
  • Do read it often, talk about it often, and do so when the atmosphere is calm and happy. You can even make reading the story part of your regular weekly routine. 
  • Do point out that other people (maybe even people they know) follow the guidelines in the story. But don't force or say that they will need to follow them, too. 
  • When you use the story as a tool for asking them to actually wear a new outfit, do keep the conversation to a minimum. Have the story out and easily available as a visual cue, and remain calm and neutral as you help them work through it.
  • Do keep the expectations realistic. We all want to be comfortable, and if a child has issues with self-regulation (like many of our neurodivergent kiddos do) what they are wearing can be pretty impactful to how they feel and act. 

4) Encourage flexibility and provide choices, choices, and more choices. 

I know I like to pick out what I wear. Don't you? Often, how I’m feeling that day plays a role in what I choose, as it does for most of us. 
Get in the habit of laying out a few clothing choices for your child to help them feel a needed sense of autonomy. Generally, keep the options to preferred items only, and slip in non-preferred items occasionally. Let your child know they can peacefully choose not to wear the non-preferred item most of the time. Once in a while, make a particular piece the only choice. For example, there are two pants to choose from but only one shirt. 
If giving only one choice for a certain item gets tricky, consider using a timer or a close-ended activity to help them get comfortable with the idea. Pick a timeframe and tell them that they only need to wear the choice they don't like for a specific amount of time (or for a specific activity). When the time/activity is up, let them change into whatever they want. 
Changing up what the mix of choices is will keep them on their toes, and encourage flexible thinking in more naturalistic setting. After all, we all have days where we love the choices in front of us, and other days when we don't. 
5) Repeat after me: Who cares what other people think? 
You know (I know you know) what is best for your child. Clothing does not have to be at the top of your agenda. If your sweet child is working on other goals, this may not be the battle to take on right now (or maybe ever). It is a-okay to march to the beat of your family's drum. For some of us, getting a child in seasonally-appropriate clothes is a matter of health, safety or other important reason. If that's you, the tips above are for you. But if not, that's okay, too. You are the one that can make the decisions that are best for your child, in their current season of life. If anybody has anything to say about what your sweetheart is wearing, smile and say: “We are choosing our battles. I’m sure you understand.” Keep smiling and walk away gently, loving your beautiful child for exactly who they are!

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Bethany Correia

Bethany Correia is the founder and CEO of the Robert Grey Center. Bethany brings over 30 years experience in a wide variety of teaching environments, including working with and advocating for people with disabilities. Over the years, she’s seen too many families forced to make these hard choices and not get the support they need to truly flourish. She started the Robert Grey Center to create a place where kids with autism can thrive and families get the support they need, without the hard choices.