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Why Don't Teenagers Wear Coats?

A quest to find an answer to this universal concern.

Is anyone else’s kid blue? Not Smurf blue, but just kinda tinged in blue? If so, it’s because not only do many kids refuse to wear a coat, but they go to school in shorts and t-shirts when the temperature has dipped well below freezing.

We all like to think we are bringing up our kids to have more common sense than the common fruit fly, but when I see them in shorts and hoodies shivering at the bus stop in an ice storm in February, I have to wonder.

This week a reader emailed me asking how she can get her teenager to wear a warm coat. My first thought was, “Good luck with that sista, because it ain’t gonna happen.”  Then I thought, “This misguided woman sincerely believes I can help her. I should try to find an answer.” And so began my quest.

First, I googled how to get kids to wear winter coats and found The Today Show actually did a piece on this, as well as the NY Times. People were blogging about the anti-coat issue from England to Canada, where they have serious winters. Clearly, it’s a universal issue.

Do you want to know what I didn’t find? An answer.

Furthering my quest to understand and therefore formulate a solution to this issue, I did a very scientific study on teenagers and their coat-wearing habits. By this I mean I asked my kids and all the students I saw this week why they don’t wear coats. 

As for my son, I stopped buying him coats years ago. He never wore them, so what was the point? Since I have never seen any of my students in anything heavier than a hoodie or North Face jacket, I wanted to hear what they had to say.  Every single one of them, boys and girls, said some variation of:

  • My locker:
  1. Is not convenient
  2. Is too small for a coat
  3. Will make me late for class by going there
  4. Is in an unknown location 
  • I’m never really outside for more than a minute.
  • I go from a warm house to a warm car to a warm school 
  • I don’t get cold
  • Coats aren’t cool

This is a “pick your battles” kind of situation because non-coat-wearing is the social norm and isn’t changing anytime soon. In one case, I was telling a student that I went to a really big high school yet I wore a coat, put it in my locker in the morning, and got it after school, to which she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Sue, kids are just lazier now.”

And so ended my quest.

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

About this column: West Hartford's Susan Schaefer, director and founder of Academic Coaching Associates, answers your questions about education.

Jim Hartzell December 14, 2011 at 09:54 PM
Instead of asking the kids, maybe you should ask the adults that do that same thing. I know of more than a few adults that go without coats and wear shorts during the winter. Maybe you should also ask those women who wear skirts.
Concerned Citizen December 15, 2011 at 04:08 AM
I am 47 and I don't wear a coat unless I am outside for an extended period of time. I side with the students on this one-unless there is a danger of frostbite-there really is no danger in being cold-being cold does not make you sick, germs make you sick.

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