Young kids may go through a phase where they want to wear the same outfit or article of clothing each day. Whether it’s an adored T-shirt or full ensemble, this poses challenges for parents, who have to do laundry – and try to get their child into something else.
“The item of clothing that is preferred is largely going to depend on why the child wants to wear it every day,” says Dr. Carnigee Truesdale-Howard, a clinical pediatric psychologist with Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak.
Why the rut?
These reasons vary by child. The garment “may provide comfort,” says Truesdale-Howard, like a well-worn pair of pants. Maybe it draws compliments. “The child may feel more empowered and happy in this outfit.”
Getting attention can be a motive or, for other kids, it may be the routine, sense of independence or just a way to express their budding personality.
The trend tends to strike between ages 2 and 8, she adds. While the phase often wanes, sometimes it’s a sign.
“In more extreme cases, the child may have an aversion to certain textures or materials of clothing,” says Truesdale-Howard. This may be sensory integration disorder, and it’s best to contact your pediatrician.
It has to be washed
Generally speaking, “The best way may be to give in,” says Truesdale-Howard. “As long as the choice of clothing is not disruptive in a classroom setting, then let them wear it.”
That said, there are limits. Clothes need cleaning. And while puberty typically doesn’t start until at least age 8 or 9, setting up good hygiene habits is valuable – especially since kids may already be in school while this phase is happening.
Truesdale-Howard suggests rules for wearing something often, such as:
- The item must be washed at least twice a week.
- If the child is old enough, he or she should wash it with adult supervision – or help load the washer, empty the dryer and fold.
- The child can only wear the outfit a few times in a week and has to wear other clothes other days.
- The child may wear the outfit on weekends only.
Find out why your child wants to wear whatever it is, she adds. They might like the way it makes them feel – especially if it’s a costume. One approach is to pare down the ensemble. “Try to (only wear) the accessories, like a headband from the princess costume,” Truesdale-Howard says.
Another option: Get imaginative alongside your child. If she likes the “powers” a superhero cape gives her, transfer that to something else.
“Maybe wash it with a different shirt or outfit, and now that has the powers, too,” suggests Truesdale-Howard. “You just have to be creative sometimes.”
When to be concerned
If your child refuses to wear anything else and it begins to disrupt other aspects of life – such as being late for school, losing friends or not making them, or being unduly stubborn – it’s time to seek help.
If it’s a sensory issue, there are ways around it that may take some trial and error. If not, but the child seems overly attached to a certain article of clothing, there may be a hidden issue, says Truesdale-Howard; your doctor can get you an appropriate referral.
Art by Mary Kinsora