Function or Fashion: What do your teens wear to school in the winter?

My high school daughter left for school the other day in her sneakers. If it weren’t for the fact that our driveway is a bit of a hill and we’re surrounded by mounds of snow, and the day before were slammed with 6 more inches of snow and an ice storm significant enough to close school for the afternoon and evening I’d think nothing of it. I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, how she made it up our hill, down the next hill to the bus stop or traversed around her open campus school that day…but she did!

I asked her about her footware decision when she arrived home later that day. She was honest about her choice. “It boiled down to function vs. fashion”, she told me with a smile. “My boots would have been better for the ice but simply didn’t match my outfit. The sneakers were truly the only choice. You know how that goes.”

Thinking as an adult, boots seemed like the best option. However, having been a teenage girl, I saw her point. However, as an adult, the boots truly were the better option…and the safer one for the cold, the ice and the snow. It occurred to me that if I didn’t handle the situation in a way that resonated with her teen sense of style, the sneakers would win out next time, too.

So, this is how I responded:

“I see your point. Boots wouldn’t have worked with that outfit. Perhaps next time we have an ice storm you could consider a more boot-appropriate outfit so you don’t slide into a building or down the hill into oncoming traffic?”

Then I added: “Remember, your sister ended up with a whopping case of frostnip a few years back when we went skiing wearing ski boots and the proper socks. And, those toes still bother her today when it’s really cold outside.”

Without us locking horns or having a big fight, she’s been wearing her boots again. With teens, it’s all in the approach and once in a while us parents luck out in how we accomplish that. This time, I got through and won the boot battle sans battle.

It’s tough to get kids to wear winter-appropriate garb, The best approach is to help them understand from a young age why the weather can be dangerous and that we’re not just being parental nags when we force upon them all these clothing rules. Use books, the internet and other adjuncts to teach them why you are doing what you are doing so they have a frame of reference. It helps kids to know there’s actual fact behind our edicts. And, it helps if we practice what we preach. We can’t very well expect our kids to don their finest winter grab if we don’t do the same.

Fashion is seasonal. Sometimes we have to be the ones to remind our kids of that – and be strong enough to enforce it. They might not “feel cold” but we have to remind them that there’s a reason that cold weather shelters open during cold advisories and recess gets cancelled. Even ski slopes issue advisories and shut down when necessary.

Function or fashion? Sometimes you can have both but when it comes to weather safety, function has to win out, all the time.


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