Dressing A Sensitive Child

If you follow me on Instagram and follow my stories, you will know the constant battles I have had with my daughter and dressing her in the morning.

mother and daughter

I have bought item after item of clothes that were deemed “too tight”, “too itchy” and “not right”, clothes bought but never worn, so frustrating!
I was forever washing the same items over and over so that my little girl wouldn’t cause a scene in the morning as we tried to get quickly out the door to nursery, so overwhelming!
I was angry; I was frustrated and even found myself with tears down my face most mornings as another piece of clothing was pulled apart, never to be worn by my daughter.At around 2 years old, Cora decided that jeans were too tight. She would squirm, pull at them and cry until I admitted defeat and she could take them off. I ended up selling 14 pairs of jeans, all different styles I had bought to try and please my little angel, all were dismissed by her.

happy children

Then it was tights, they were too “tight” and “annoyed” her. The pretty dresses and tights were stripped off as soon as I turned my back in place for her wash worn, oversized cotton smocks.
Summer’s were easier, she decided that all she would wear were the 2.99 simple vest dresses from H and M. They were fab for the summer and we never had any problem with dressing in the morning, they slipped on and off she went. As they were so cheap we bought them in every colour, so she always had one to wear.

pretty girl standing in the wind

We live in Scotland and if you are aware the weather here is unpredictable and also bloody cold, even in the summers but she was happy in her little cotton dresses for the few weeks the sun did shine but then it started to get colder. We needed to cover her legs, she had to wear a coat…and socks…and jumpers… and hats…you get the idea. It started to happen again. The constant complain that the clothes were not right, we cut tags out of clothes, washed them in vinegar (good tip BYW, makes them so soft and no strong perfume smell), let her pick the clothes in the shop but it was something new each day. I was pulling my hair out.
I started to look at her behaviour, this was not “normal”. The more I thought about it, I realise that I do this.

I don’t wear the dress size that I am, I am a ten but often I wear 12’s or even 14s. This isn’t because of different sizing (though it’s crazy but that is a different post) it’s because I too don’t like the tight feeling of clothes against my skin, I often opt for leggings and dresses. Comfortable. I too would pull, scratch and feel so awkward if I ever had to wear something that wasn’t “right”. I also take my shoes and socks off as soon as I get in as they need to breath, even if my feet are like ice I would rather that than wear socks or slippers around the house. Cora also does this.
Oh no, I thought! I have passed these ticks to my daughter, I knew she was always sensitive and I believe I have been very good at supporting her with that but had never thought that these morning meltdowns could have been part of it. I was going to have to support her with this.
This issue can be related to SPD sensory processing disorder, SPD is a neurophysiologic condition in which sensory input either from the environment or from one’s body is poorly detected, modulated, or interpreted and/or to which atypical responses are observed. I am not saying this is what Cora has, not formally anyway but I believe what I have learned from looking at the processes to ease the anxieties I could aid Cora with her dressing.What I had to remember was that Cora wasn’t trying to be difficult when she was refusing to wear most clothes, she didn’t want the scratching of the tags on her skin, her skin was as sensitive as mine to the clothes. I needed to stop fighting with her and find the right clothes for her. This was going to differcult.
I had to give up on fashion, trendy, stylish clothing, she wasn’t having any of that. Those clothes were full of all the things she hated, studs, ruffles, cuffs, buttons and elasticised waists. I had to give up on the idea of creating a mini style icon, she needed comfort and to be happy. We opted for organic cotton dresses and leggings (the few items she would wear with no complains) from H and M IN 2/3 sizes bigger than she was.

child with hot chocolate

My mum actually hates the fact Cora’s clothes are so big on her as she looks “messy” and unkempt but Cora’s happy. This was a hard one for me too though. I had to swallow my pride and not care how she looked. I knew other people wouldn’t understand and I had to learn to not care. That was a good life lesson.
Once we found some things that she would wear, we bought them in bulk. She chose the designs and lucky for us H and M had lots of prints to choose from and they were also good, cost wise. I had spent so much money in the past trying to get her to wear different items. Items that ended up being resold or donated, so much money wasted.
We played it safe, she liked the H and M brand (this is not a #AD BTW). The clothes washed well and she would actually wear them! I am scared to try other brands now as I just don’t know if they will work for us. I washed them many times before she wore them, so they were softer and not as stiff, like new clothes can feel.

Coras was just as frustrated as me. She didn’t know how to express how she was feeling or know how to manage it and she would take it out on me, every morning, every day.We talked a lot to Cora about why she didn’t like a lot of the clothes available and though she still couldn’t explain it fully, we now listen to her and not fight it. She understands and is communicating with us what feels right and knows what she likes in a shop but touching the fabric and not just but sight. I learnt that after buying dresses she thought were pretty but couldn’t stand wearing.
I know these issues won’t go away, she may out grow some but if she is anything like me she won’t. The best thing I have done is educate myself on these issues so I could adapt for Cora, I didn’t want to fight with her any more. I could see the distress that wear these clothes brought her and it was heartbreaking for me.
So here are some tips for anyone who thinks their child may have SPD or a sensitivity to certain clothes.

1. Be Patient And Choose Your Battles

My advice is let them wear what they want as long as it covers what needs to be covered and is clean! There are too many issues that you’ll need to struggle with, and this isn’t one of them!”

2. Trial And Error

When I find a style they love, I go back and purchase more in the next size up. Meanwhile, work on flexibility for occasions where that casual dress is not appropriate

3. Get Rid Of Lumpy Socks

I had to have tight straight, thin socks because if there were any bumps in the I would rip my socks off because I felt like I was crawling out of my own skin

4. Laundry Detergent and Chemical Sensitivity

Finding a good laundry detergent with no scent and non-itch inducing/nonirritating, and no fabric softener and no dryer sheets to prevent fabric pilling also helps to keep his favorite clothing feeling the same over time. I swear by the use of vinegar fro softening fabric and no your clothes don’t come out smelling of it. Its less harsh and gentle on their little skin.

5. Work on the Process of Dressing

Process can be important. While he was young we always got him dressed in the same order undies, shirt, pants, etc. in the same room like a ritual to make it a predictable and more comfortable event.

8. Emotion and Texture

I would say to try the seamless socks, soft cotton tagless shirts, and soft comfortable elastic waist shorts etc. I would experiment letting them help you to get them dressed and feel like they are more in control of what is happening.This may help to feel more secure and they can take their time. I know it can be a really horrid feeling when something doesn’t feel right on your skin/body

Do you have a child with these sensory issues? What’s your best tip for parents out there? Do you know someone who frequently shops for seamless socks and soft clothes? Share this article with them!