Why Is It So Hard To Get Kids Dressed Some Days?
Let's count the ways.
They still can't button/snap their own pants because they can't control their tiny fingers.
They're having way too much fun playing to want to stop and put on clothes. (Well are clothes even necessary!?!)
Half of the day they're either starving or exhausted, possibly both, making them grumpy and uncooperative. (We can't blame them here, we can get pretty uncooperative ourselves when hangry.)
Too often they're either swimming in their clothes or can barely squeeze into them because of their crazy growth spurts that seem to happen overnight.
Add in that a huge amount of luck goes into getting them to follow any simple instructions while they're still learning to regulate their emotions and behaviors.
Alright, so it makes perfect sense why little kids are hard to dress sometimes, but they still have to wear clothes (most days....errr some days.) So now what?
Here Are A Few Ideas For Making It Easier To Get Little Kids Dressed:
- Turn it into a game: Turn getting dressed into a game or a challenge. For example, you could see who can put on their shoes the fastest, or you could make a competition out of seeing who can put on the most clothes in a minute. If that's too advanced for your child's age, start with playing peek-a-boo with the shirt/onesie before you pull it over their face.
- Give them choices: Let your child choose between two or three outfits that are appropriate for the occasion. This can help them feel more in control and make getting dressed more enjoyable. Even really young non-verbal children can often point to their preferred choice and gain a feeling of satisfaction from receiving it.
- Use fun clothing: Choose clothes with fun prints or characters that your child loves. This makes getting dressed more exciting for them. Afterall, choosing between two great options is always more fun than choosing between two things you don't even like.
- Make it a routine: Create a routine that includes getting dressed. This helps your child know what to expect and makes getting dressed feel less unexpected and overwhelming. Do they get dressed before leaving their bedroom, after breakfast, after brushing their teeth, etc? If it happens mostly around the same time and events, they'll learn to expect it and resist it less.
- Give them independence: As they become more capable, let them do as much of the dressing process as they can on their own. This can help them feel more independent and confident. Full disclosure, not all kids WANT to become independent. If you suspect your child falls into that category, it may take some extra effort on your part to encourage that independence. Reward them with praise and affection when they do get that shirt on themselves or take off their pants etc. Similar to potty training, don't punish them when they refuse but go over the top with enthusiasm when they do.
- Be patient: Getting dressed can be frustrating for both you and your child. Try to stay patient and offer encouragement and praise when your child is making an effort to cooperate. If you can't maintain your patience, it's not very fair to expect them to either.
Why Is It So Hard For Older Children To Get Dressed Some Days?
There are a few reasons why it can be tough to get older kids dressed somedays:
- Feeling overwhelmed: Older kids may have a lot going on in their lives: school, extracurricular activities, social stuff, and family environment. They may be feeling overwhelmed and struggle with the mental effort of adding one more decision/task to their plate.
- Experiencing body changes: As kids go through puberty, they may be self-conscious about their changing bodies and how they appear in certain types of clothes.
- Feeling rebellious: Older kids may be going through a phase where they want to assert their independence and may resist getting dressed as a way of exercising control. It's actually a normal and healthy part of development. Do your best to resist the urge to yell and remember that you want your child to gradually become a fully functional and independent human being.
- They may need to be heard: Some kids may struggle with mental health issues like depression or anxiety, which can make it hard for them to engage in tasks like getting dressed. With the busy lives they live these days and the social media they're constantly exposed to, mental health struggles can start far sooner than you might expect. If you suspect this might be an issue for your child, please don't wait to reach out for professional help.
How Can We Address These Issues?
- Take a deep breath together: Sometimes a little bit of mindfulness can work wonders for calming the mind, and getting your child in the habit of learning to calm themselves down when upset or overwhelmed, will serve them well in life.
- Talk about it: Whether it's feeling self-conscious, overwhelmed, or struggling with anxiety, initiating an open and honest conversation about how they're feeling may help them with more than just their outfit that day.
- Break things down: When a task feels too daunting, it can help to break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Instead of asking them to "get dressed", break it down into "pick out the shirt you would like to wear today please" followed by "do you want help finding matching pants?" etc.
- Offer a hug: A simple hug can go a long way in making your child feel loved and supported. It's been shown that hugs that last for 20 seconds or more have the power to create a stronger bond between people. This is because when we hug, our bodies release oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel good. Oxytocin not only helps to strengthen the bond between the huggers, but it also has the added benefit of boosting the immune system and reducing stress. If your child is struggling to follow directions to get dressed, a sincere hug could help you both move forward in a more positive manner.
- Make a silly face: Sometimes a little bit of levity can help lighten the mood and make things feel easier. Of course, it doesn't have to be a silly face, jokes, silly sounds would work too. You know your child best, but the point is to lighten the mood and bring a smile.
- Remind them: Gentle reminders that it's okay to ask for help can be exactly what they need. Whether it's to you or another trusted adult, let them know that it's okay to reach out when they're feeling overwhelmed, because we all feel overwhelmed sometimes, even adults.
- Take a break: If things get really heated, it can be helpful to step away for a few minutes and come back to the task when everyone is feeling a little calmer.
In summary, there are a whole lot of reasons it can be hard to get your child dressed, and we sympathize with you 100%. The best advice we have is to remain patient and empathetic, as children may not always understand the importance of getting dressed or may simply be having a hard time with their emotions. It's okay to set boundaries and offer guidance, but try to approach the situation with empathy and a sense of humor. Remember that these moments are just a small part of parenting and that every child is unique and will have their own challenges and quirks. With some patience and persistence, you and your child will eventually get through the process of getting dressed and be ready to tackle whatever lays ahead.