“Shower again? I just showered last week!”
Whether it’s showering, washing hands, putting on deodorant or wearing clean clothes, sometimes it’s hard for parents to help their children entering the teen years to understand hygiene.
Children that are used to bathing and changing clothes less frequently because they didn’t need it before may have a hard time when parents insist that they need to shower and change their clothes more often.
The desire for better hygiene from parents combined with the lack of understanding of growing children can create quite the struggle!
The good news is that your child is maturing physically! He’s becoming a man, and she’s becoming a woman.
The increased body odor, sweat, acne and other physical changes don’t have to be resented or lamented. They can be opportunities to talk about puberty, how our bodies change and how we can care about other people by taking care of ourselves.
Here are four tips for teaching hygiene:
Talk About Puberty and Hygiene
Puberty can be mysterious and unsettling for a child. Imagine (if you can’t remember, or you may have blocked it out of your memory!) no longer being in control of your voice as it cracks mysteriously, seeing hair grow in unusual places and sweating more than ever before. Or, noticing your breasts growing, hips getting larger and menstruating for the first time!
As testosterone levels increase in boys and progesterone and estrogen increase in girls, these are some of the changes that happen (for more see What Happened to my Kid), and they can be scary!
Most likely, your child has learned something about puberty, but hearing about it and experiencing it are very different things.
A good way to bring it up and talk about it is to treat it as a rite of passage. Keep it positive! It really is a good thing.
Talk about how a boy becomes a man by going through all kinds of changes. Explain some of those changes and congratulate him for beginning those changes.
Take time to explain that a woman has different needs than a girl does. Congratulate her for entering a new phase of femininity.
Explain what it means to be healthy: proper diet, enough sleep, daily exercise and hygiene.
Explain that adult bodies sweat more and need to be cleaned more often to avoid smells and acne, and then show them how to keep their skin clean. Also, show them how to shave as they begin to grow body and facial hair.
Develop a Routine
When your child understands more of the positive reasons behind hygiene, they will likely respond better to the idea of more frequent hygiene habits.
Develop a routine for showering, changing and washing clothes that you are satisfied with as a parent and talk it through with your son or daughter.
Whether it’s showering every other day in the morning or after physical exertion or both, make it practical and easy to understand.
As they need to change their clothes more often, explain when the laundry will be cleaned and who’s responsible for what. Teach them how to do the laundry if they want more control over their clothing options.
Make it Positive
Many young children resist showering, bathing and changing their clothes because they have better things to do.
The most important thing we can do as parents is to help them understand that proper hygiene is a good thing, both for them and the people around them.
Aside from congratulating them for becoming young men and women, try to keep it positive by making it fun.
Let them pick out their own clothes, soaps, deodorants and shampoos at the store (this could be a good money teaching strategy as well if you give them a certain amount of money to shop with).
Help them think about showering and cleaning themselves as their own personal time to relax and think.
Remind them that taking care of themselves is not only good for them, but also for the people around them. It’s a gift they can give others!
Notice Their Efforts to Look and Smell Good
It’s easy to notice poor hygiene. However, in an effort to keep it positive, make sure you notice your child’s efforts to look and smell good.
Keep it simple and private. Don’t embarrass them in front of their friends or siblings.
Help them realize that their efforts are worth it and not just another chore that doesn’t seem to matter.
Share your thoughts and experiences with teaching hygiene with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below. And just think… they aren’t in the bathroom for hours at a time like they may be in just a few years!