No Jacket Required?


As parents of tweens and teens know too well, after the age of 10 or 11 traditional winter coats are just not cool. Who hasn’t seen kids stand at the school-bus corner when it’s 40° or below, shivering in shorts and a thin-looking shirt? (And who hasn’t thought, “What kind of mom lets a kid go out in this cold without a coat?”)

Why is pressing a middle or high schooler to put on something warm enough to weather, well, the weather a futile exercise? Common kid answers include:

  • “A jacket doesn’t fit into a small locker.”
  • “It’s too hot on the bus . . . in the halls . . . at my desk.”
  • “We don’t go outside for lunch, I just have to run into and out of the school.” • “Bulky clothes are uncomfortable.”
  • “No one can see my outfit under that thing.”

Is correcting your child’s no-jacket tendency a battle worth fighting? Parents and experts say: Probably not. Here’s why:

  • Cold weather itself doesn’t cause colds. The rate of colds rises in winter because, as people huddle amid close indoor quarters, recycled air more readily spreads viruses and bugs released through coughs and sneezes.
  • There’s a whole market of thinner outerwear options imbued with warming materials. You can find plenty of lightweight sweatshirts, hoodies and zipups lined with fleece, high-performance microfibers and waterproof Gore-Tex. Think Under ArmourNorth FacePatagonia.
  • Kids need to take ownership of their bodies and clothing. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, advises that parents allow teens to make their own decision on this front yet lead by example; don’t nag. When the weather warrants warm outerwear, say something like “ ‘I think it’s cold and I’m definitely wearing a jacket.’ ” Let your child know that the decision is hers, yet “ ‘I’m afraid that you will be cold once we are outside, and I won’t want you to have to come back to the house. How about I put your jacket in the backpack in case you change your mind?’ ”
  • As potential power struggles go, this one’s easy to defuse. The less you fret about the lack of a jacket, the less your kid will be interested in pushing your buttons by not wearing one. Like all teen trends, this one will pass when he gets cold enough — or her favorite store comes out with the cutest coat imaginable. In other words, chill out 
We had a vigorous Facebook debate about how our readers deal with this cold-weather hot topic. Click to the next page to see what you had to say!

Briana A.: Simple, they don’t go out till they are dressed for the weather.

Jenn P.: Our compromise is that if there is snow on the ground, they have to wear pants.

Melissa G.: If they have a cold or are sick, it’s not an option. Other than that, if they feel it’s worth freezing just to look “cool,” it’s on them.

Dewi G.: My son likes Under Armour; he says it keeps him warm. My kids wear uniforms to school. A lot of kids are underdressed, but I think that is a money issue.

Mike T.: This is not a big deal at all. It’s a matter of personal consequence. If he wears shorts and he’s cold, that’s his own fault and he’ll learn for next time. How many times has a woman chosen fashion over function?

Gabriella V.: Not just boys, girls, too! T-shirts and jeggings and shorts all winter long while I’m wearing three layers of clothing.

Nicki B.: I don’t fight over it. My kids are very warm-bodied. If they are cold, they will put more clothes on. My husband runs in shorts even if it’s snowing. I can’t very well ask my kids to do different.

Brett M.: I pick my battles and this is not one of them.

Daniel Meredith S.: I’m extremely uncomfortable if I’m overbundled. I try to dress my toddler sensibly, but I’m not going to battle about their own comfort unless it becomes dangerous.

Natalie W.: Whatever happened to putting away such clothes as “seasonal” and not breaking them back out until spring? Be a parent and control the situation.

Sue F.: My son actually prefers warmer pants and will bundle up in a coat.

Christina A.-M.: It seems to be a fad and not a good one. What if the bus breaks down or something happens at school and they need to evacuate outside? It’s my responsibility as a parent to teach my kid (and enforce) how to dress appropriately for the season and discuss dangers of frostnip and hypothermia.

Brian G.: This “pick your battles” mentality is stupid. My kids know that what mom and dad say goes. If you allow them to dress like that in winter, then shame on you. You failed.


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