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Why some kids wear shorts in winter

The child who is adamant about wearing shorts whether it's a balmy 85 degrees or a frigid 4 is a sight that a lot of parents are familiar with, but it is still puzzling, to say the least. What is so appealing about wearing shorts in chilly winter weather? This post tries to demystify why some kids prefer to be underdressed, and also goes further into what you can do about it.

Why does your kid prefer shorts to warm winter clothes?

- A common belief is that some kids simply “run hot”

Some parents believe that their kids are simply less uncomfortable in winter temperatures than the average person. There could be some truth to this – according to parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboah, some kids, boys, in particular, feel warmer. This is because male sex hormones such as testosterone might make cold receptors present in the skin less sensitive to lower temperatures, which may subsequently allow them to be more tolerant of cold weather.

However, according to Matthew Saia, a pediatrician at the University of Vermont, while some children may have a body temperature that is higher than the average, it is not enough to make a difference, and they could still be at risk of the effects of significant cold exposure.

- Some kids do it out of habit

Some kids wear shorts in winter simply because that's what they do for most of the year. If your shorts are the go-to item in your kids' wardrobe, then it may not come as a surprise when they want to continue wearing what they're accustomed to even when the weather is far from favorable. This can make it hard for you to convince them to wear warmer layers even during the winter.

- It may be a display of toughness or strength

It is not common for uncommon for kids who wear shorts during the winter to insist that they don't feel cold. They may do this to display just how tough or strong they are in the presence of their peers.

This is especially common with boys. Phyllis Fagell, a therapist and school counselor, believes that young boys may become resistant to the swaddling protection of the winter layers that their parents enforce as a signal of maturity and masculinity.

According to Fagell, boys in late elementary and middle school start to become aware of societal views on what it means to be tough and masculine, and for many of these young males, this translates to sporting bare calves.

Therefore, wearing shorts during what the average individual considers winter coat weather may feel to some kids like the ultimate display of maturity.

- Your kids may be at that stage where they don’t value your input

Another reason why your child may choose to wear shorts during the winter may be because they might be at a developmental stage where they’re particularly averse to your perception as a parent. This rings true with pre-teens in particular, who don’t like to be told what to do or how to feel. So, if you tell them that they need pants or extra layers because they might feel cold, their instinctive need to be rebellious at this age may cause them to wear a short just to prove a point.

- It may be a result of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

In some cases, kids may have SPD. They may not want to wear their winter layers because they don’t like the feel of jeans, denim, wool, zippers, buttons, clothes that are too tight, clothes that are too loose, and so on. As a result, they may prefer a pair of shorts that have an elastic waistband or drawstrings even during the winter.

What to do when your child doesn’t want to wear winter clothing

1. Get more comfortable clothing

Winter clothes are generally bulky, and inner layers might feel a little too tight for comfort to some kids. Making small adjustments to their winter wardrobe can have a significant impact. Here are some tips on how you can do this:

  • Get rid of clothing tags
  • Buy soft underwear and undershirts
  • Try buying softer fabrics, like fleece

You can also try to make clothes a bit more comfortable by having your kid wear layers. For example, rather than a bulky pair of winter pants, have your little one wear an insulating pair of tights under the shorts. Keep in mind that every child has unique preferences, so it's all about experimenting and trying to find what will work for your child.

2. Listen to their opinion on what they want to wear

The more input kids have in how they dress, the more likely they are to choose warm clothing. Take your kids along with you the next time you go shopping for winter clothes and have them try on different items to find what they like.

Give them the option to choose their day-to-day clothes, only guiding with some basic rules, such as long sleeves and pants for extra cold days. If your kid is young, it may help to provide them with two or three options to choose from. If you're dealing with an older child, compromising may be the way to go – if they won't wear pants, they have to wear tights underneath their shorts.

3. Come up with an organizational strategy for winter clothes

It may be worth considering putting away all the summer clothes, including shorts out of your child’s sight in winter. Lay out all the daily winter wear they will need in an easily accessible area, like the top drawer of their dresser, for instance.

You can also pack them some warm pants for them to take to school in case your child changes their mind about wearing shorts on a cold winter day.

4. Let your kid have the experience

If your child is adamant about wearing shorts in winter, you may need to let it go and let him/her face the consequences of not dressing warmly enough.

Final thoughts

There are a variety of reasons why your child may want to wear shorts on a cold winter day – they may simply not feel cold, they may do it out of rebellion, they may want to seem tough to their peers, winter clothes may make them uncomfortable, and so on. Depending on the reasoning behind their preference, you can dress them in layers rather than one bulky winter wear, pack them extra layers in case they get cold, or consider their opinion.

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