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Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

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My 8 year old, very bright grand-daughter who reads at a 13 year old level, plays guitar and violin, and has played soccer, will no longer wear "any" pants, skirts or socks in the past month. The doctors say she has anxiety and to put her in comfy clothes and send her to school. But absolutely "no" clothes are comfy for her. She eats a variety of foods and changes of detergents have no result. She cannot go to school and is very sad; she can't go to OT or therapy as she will not keep clothes on.

By Jennie from Albany, NY


Recent Answers

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By marlenej02/02/2014

No, do not fight with your gd order Hanna Anderrson undies. No tags, no labels, no seams and no wedgies. They are a bit pricey 3 prs for $15 but worth every penny. Her visitation daddy steals them (sends her home w/no panties) and her mommy just takes them and send her home in boy unders from Walmart. The girl loves them.

By Debbie02/01/2011

I think the problem might be the hem and labels in clothes. They make them itch, feel like spinter's. I have a 22 yr old that started months ago, first started taking the hem out of socks, then & still take the hem out of the bottom of pants & shirts. I read alot of blogs written by autistic adults that all mentioned they don't like hems & labels in their clothes. Hope this helps.

By Jennie [1]12/02/2010

This child is seeing a counselor; was tested for any autistic or aspergers syndroms; she should not be spanked for having a serious problem that she cannot control and is making her very sad. Therapist says there are some sensory issues besides emotional problems; but, since she is so bright and wants to get better, that the prognosis, though long and arduous, is good.

By susan [33]12/01/2010

I am training to be a special needs teacher and I think your granddaughter should have some psychological testing. Her school should be able to do it free of charge at home or school. She may have some sort of disability such as being on the autism spectrum or even an allergy; allergies with children sometimes have different symptoms. Good luck.

By HAPPYINHARNED [13]11/30/2010

If she were my granddaughter, I'd give her a spanking. This may be enough to convince her she needs the covering for padding! If this didn't work I'd take her to a therapist.You are the boss and she should be made to do what you tell her to do. If I took off my pants and paraded around in front of my granddaughters, that would be enough to convince them the true reason people wear pants!

By vicki hood [4]11/30/2010

Probably a trauma that needs a therapist doctor not a GP. For such a quick change in this bright little girl, something hurt her or scared her and she needs someone who can get her to talk without fear. Sometimes that is not a Mom or Dad. She could also be under threat.


It sounds to me like she needs to see a specialist as soon as possible. It could be something as simple as her way of control or it also could be something traumatic has happened to her if it's not physiological. I know this sounds mean but if she won't keep or put her clothes on take her to a specialist naked and just keep a blanket with you for modesty sake. I know that sounds mean but it's more mean and harmful to not do something about solving this problem.

By merlene smith [4]11/30/2010

What type of doctor is saying this? She is seeing a doctor that specializes in anxiety (emotional) conditions. She may need to see a specialist if she isn't currently doing so. Best wishes for her.

By Linda L. [33]11/30/2010

You mention therapy and OT-does this child have autistic spectrum disorder or other special needs? If so, she may have a sensory integration issue and a skilled teacher or therapist can help with a program for her. If she is not a special needs child why can she not understand that if she refuses to wear clothes she is choosing to not be able to go to school, therapy, etc. Remind her that she can go to school, etc with all the kids when she chooses to dress like all the kids do. It sounds like there is something else going on and a psychologist/therapist is needed. She can probably go in her PJs if necessary. Is the refusal to wear clothes an attention getting behavior?

By Joan [13]11/29/2010

Can't she be made to leave the clothes on to take her out? One of my grandkids got sent to school in their pjs one time because they refused to get dressed for school, their clothes got sent with them. Their Mother called the school and let them know what was going on. After that the kid always got dressed because some of the other kids had teased them about wearing their pjs to school. It worked.


Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

My 7 year old granddaughter won't wear underwear. Mother has tried all types, she goes hysterical and breaks out in blotches on her face. Not only that she does not wear socks, dungarees, or tight pants.
Has anyone ever heard of this, and if so please advise how you dealt with the problem.

By Ann from Tyngsboro, MA

RE: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

It sounds like she might possibly be tactilly defensive. That just means that a person is very sensitive to their sense of touch. Her body tells her that that elastic waist band, or tight socks, or stiff/rough material is painful. She has hysterics because, to her, it feels really bad, and she is still expected to wear it. Everyday. Think of it this way: let's say you really hate hot and spicy food. Burns your mouth, tastes terrible. But people keep on feeding it to you for every meal. You say you hate it, and they tell you to get used to it. Maybe they get mad at you. You can't like it, you can't get used to it. You are so upset, you get hysterical. Then they try to give you something you can tolerate. You learn to get hysterical because it works, and it is really, really important to you.

Tactile defensiveness is a sensory integration problem. Kids who have it may be unable to tolerate certain sensations, or may crave exaggerated sensations. They might hate being touched unless they initiate it. They might have certain other behavior problems that puzzle their parents and teachers. People might say they are too fussy, or that they cause trouble. You can look sensory integration and tactile defensiveness up on-line. One good site is for The Out-of-Sync Child.

All the clothes you list are very common agitators for some people. Elastic waist bands or cuffs. Form fitting socks, or loose socks that might bunch up and wrinkle. Stiff materials, rough materials. These things might not feel rough or tight to us, but they feel just horrible to her, and there is just no way for her to ignore it. If she is forced to wear it, she might stop complaining about it, but she might be fidgety and cranky and unable to focus that day because it bothers her so much.

If she is tactilly defensive, she needs some help. It's not something her mom or anyone else "should" have known. I know about it because of my education, training, and profession, and also because my grandson has a sensory integrative disorder. He is a bright, happy, wonderful 3-year old, but there are some real issues for him. Luckily, there are things that can be done to help.

If she doesn't have this problem, then adjustments just need to be made. Heck, nothing wrong with personal preference. No guilt for the little sweetie! The underwear problem might be from the elastic, so it will be tough. I don't know of any that don't use elastic. It sounds like the rest will be easier. Loose, soft clothing might be the key. Also changing detergent/fabric softener might help.

Sorry I wrote such a long response. Hope it was helpful! (05/20/2010)

By schyresti

RE: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

With that many aversions to clothing I would suggest that she may be on the autism spectrum. Does she have other idiosyncrasies compared to her peers? She may be a high functioning autistic child or just on the spectrum, sometimes this is hereditary, is there anyone else in her mother or father's family with tactile problems or deficient in social skills? Good luck. (05/20/2010)

By yoder178

RE: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

schyrest has covered the whole issue well.

As an adoptive mom, my kids had these issues along with the FAS and probably AS (aspergers). We did brushing and compressions and it helped.

Did she wear training panties? if so what is different? Softer? Elastic covered? Baggier? Tighter? Material, etc.

If she wore new underwear with tags it will feel like someone is cutting into her. The sizing in new clothes can take more than one washing to get out, another reason yard sales are best.

Hand me downs worked best, no tags. New clothes take a long time to get to the point of comfortable, lots of screaming and problems, avoid the hassles yard sales are your friend.

If you sew consider trying to make underwear (use bathing suit pattern). Try flannel or recycled t-shirt material. Try various types of elastic, there is a wide lacy type elastic that distributes the pressure vs just in one area. If they have a sensitivity to the elastic itself put in a casing (I can't wear most bras, I break out in red rash, and if I wear long enough it turns into blisters).

In the old days there was underwear similar to the new style boxers that were like shorts (no leg elastic).

My third son would only wear sweats, t-shirts from yard sales because the necks were stretched out. My second son always had to have a t-shirt under long flannel shirts (we are in Maine) because they moved and touched skin at different places. My girlfriend's dear daughter will only wear capri type tights, no jeans, or sweats if they touch her ankles (has to be pant cut not elastic). (05/21/2010)


RE: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

Maybe she is allergic to the laundry soap or fabric softener. (05/21/2010)

By craftyme

RE: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

I am on the same thinking lines with Yoder and Schyresti. I would take her to the doctor and talk with them about it since it is not just the underwear! (05/21/2010)

By Teresa Kay

RE: 7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

My son and first child was exactly like this. He was very specific about what clothes he would wear. No jeans, no shirts with seams, no underwear with buttons, no briefs, only some boxers. He would not wear any clothes with any metal on it. He didn't even like to look at certain color metals like on a door knob. He used our silverware at home, but everywhere else he used plastic. It drove me crazy. I bought hundreds of dollars of clothes that he wouldn't wear. I begged, pleaded and punished. Nothing worked. Finally I gave in and let him do what felt comfortable to him and "it worked".

He is now 22 and in his final year at a great college. He turned out to be a very smart kid and got a free ride to college. He met a wonderful girl who loves him despite the fact that she can't wear earrings around him. I am so proud of him. Don't worry. Sorry so long. (05/21/2010)

By TC in MO

Archive: Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

I have a 7 year old granddaughter who will not wear underwear or anything she feels is too tight. We've tried everything from larger sizes to trying every style of undies for children. She needs to stretch everything before she puts it on.


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