Clothing resistance could be a phase or a physical problem

CHILD LIFE

September 03, 1995|By BEVERLY MILLS

Q: We have a lot of trouble getting our 3-year-old son dressed. There may be two or three pairs of pants or shirts that he'll wear, but anything else -- or something new -- he'll scream and cry and complain that it hurts him. I sure would like some help.

Jim Statsky, Berwyn, Ill.

A: Most preschoolers go through difficult clothes phases -- everything from insisting on the same pants for days to refusing any outfit that buttons down the front.

If it's a phase, it'll pass, and the best thing is simply to avoid a battle. But there are many other children whose clothing problems are a sign of a physical condition that makes them extremely sensitive to touch: Tactile defensiveness affects the nerves and causes a tendency to react negatively to touch sensations.

If a child's distress is so severe that it begins to interfere with daily life, ask the family's health-care provider for a referral to an occupational therapist. These therapists can teach you exercises to do with your child that will help him build up a greater tolerance to touch.

In cases that are not so severe, the best thing to do is simply avoid the offending clothing or irritating situations.

Here are some coping strategies from parents who are living with this problem. These suggestions may also help in surviving a phase.

* "Take the child shopping with you and make sure he tries everything on before you buy it," says Donna Hartman of Glenview, Ill.

* "Let him pick what he wants to wear," says Kerry Dileonardo of San Jose, Calif.

* "Cut out the tags because sometimes they are made with hard fiber and they really hurt," says Cinnamon Hopkins of Tempe, Ariz.

* Change brands of laundry detergent and fabric softener, suggests Julie Rawls of Phoenix, Ariz. "The child may be allergic to it," she says.

* Wash all the child's clothes several times to soften them before he wears them, says Kirsten Cackoski of Minneapolis.

* Kit Pitkin, from East Aurora, N.Y., buys most of her son's clothes second-hand because they are already nicely soft.

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