NEW YORK — Among the great spectacles of winter, along with the northern lights and frozen lakes, are coatless kids.
No coat, no gloves? No prob!
These teens and tweens are chillin' out, literally and figuratively, in their sweatshirts and kicks. Maybe a boy will accessorize with a baseball cap, and a girl might choose stylish boots — but nothing weatherproof, please! Some boys even wear shorts year-round, and many parents say they've given up the fight.
For example, Jack Rogers, 12, of Fishers, Ind., was wearing shorts in December. "I know lots of kids who do that," he said.
His grandma doesn't understand. "It's 15 degrees. Why doesn't he have a coat on him?" she asked.
"I told her, 'I have to pick and choose my battles,'" said Jack's mom, Shelley Rogers Landes. "I need to let him make decisions that really are inconsequential at the end of the day."
In a telephone interview, Jack explained his reasons for dressing light in winter: "Coats are just a hassle, putting it all on. It makes me bulky. I just like to be in short sleeves."
He doesn't mind gloves, but boots? "Nah, I don't like 'em." If his sneakers get wet, he says, "it doesn't really bother me."
Tracy Colon of Lexington is adjusting to the cold weather since moving from Florida, but her kids aren't. "My children still think we are there. My son walks out to the car line in his T-shirt. But hey, he says he has his jacket wrapped around his waist," she said.
"My middle school daughter walks out the door in her hoodie and offers me the 'comfort' of having her jacket safely tucked in her backpack," she said. Colon constantly reminds her kids to wear their coats, even turning the laundry room into a coat closet, she said.
"I just tell them we are taught about wearing coats at 'mom school' and have to remind them. But I still see the mental eye-rolls."
Carleton Kendrick of Millis, Mass., a family therapist, says that for teens, "wearing bulky winter coats, gloves, boots — unless teen girls consider them high fashion — and hats screams nerd, geek, baby, dork ... uncool!"
He said: "Short of real and present danger of your teens getting frostbite, let them deal with being cold to be cool."
Jane Samuel, who blogs as MavenMama for BlueGrassMoms.com, wonders whether there might be something more going on with kids who don't want to wear winter coats.
Samuel, who has learned about sensory disorders while working on therapy with her daughter, said she wonders if a child who doesn't want to wear a coat in winter could have a sensory-processing disorder.
With her own child, "she is cold when we are all warm, warm when we are all cold. We have been doing occupational therapy now for a while, and it is much improved."
Autumn O'Bryan said she was shocked, after moving to New Hampshire from Los Angeles, to see "girls and boys with sweatshirts and sneakers in a blizzard waiting for their bus. I even saw a couple of boys with short-sleeve shirts. The only hats were baseball hats, and no gloves or boots on anyone." O'Bryan had been fighting with her son about wearing a coat, but "after that, I gave up and have never brought it up again."
In Alaska, of course, the dangers of frostbite and hypothermia are real. "Our teenagers are the same as everyone else's — they think they're Superman, they're invincible — but our weather is different," said Shelby Nelson, spokeswoman for Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. She said local media, schools, police and other officials work to get the message out to kids that dressing warmly is a matter of safety. Even a car ride can turn deadly if you break down and have to walk a mile in 20-below-zero weather.
And contrary to what some parents might think, Art Strauss, an emergency room physician at Fairbanks Memorial, said raging teen hormones do not raise body temperature. "There is not any truth to that," he said.
Wendy Kerschner of Adamstown, Pa., says her 14-year-old son simply doesn't mind cold air on his legs, so he "wears shorts to school almost every day." Her husband doesn't think it's a big deal, because the only time their son is outside is when he is waiting for the school bus. But like a lot of moms, she does wonder: "What must my neighbors think of me?"
Girls might find Ugg boots or cute knit hats appealing, said Kevin Nadal, an assistant professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, but "boys at this stage are dealing with developing their masculinity. So in many ways, toughing it out by not wearing warm-enough clothes may be a way for them to appear manly."