Teaching Teens Good Hygiene
As soon as puberty hits and the hormones start flowing, the hygiene requirements for your child change dramatically in many ways. Unfortunately, many parents avoid discussing the subject because it feels somewhat embarrassing. The problem is that teens don’t know what good hygiene is unless their parent teaches them, and teens who have poor hygiene face social exclusion and potential medical problems. It is absolutely essential that parents take the time to explain hygiene basics.
Teen Hygiene Basics
Here is a rundown of what hygiene you should discuss with your children:
Showering. Once puberty hits, daily showering becomes very important. If your teen has very dry or sensitive skin, they can possibly shower every other day or they can use a mild soap and concentrate on the face, hands, feet, underarms, and groin area.
Washing hair. Discuss the pros and cons of daily hair washing. Some teens may prefer to skip days to prevent their hair from drying out. Others may want to wash their hair daily if they have oily hair, which can both look greasy and aggravate acne.
Using deodorant or antiperspirant. When puberty hits, your teen’s sweat glands become more active and the chemical composition of the sweat changes, causing it to smell stronger. Your teen should use deodorant or an antiperspirant at least once a day, usually right after showering. It can be a great idea for them to keep some deodorant in their gym locker for after their physical education class.
Changing clothes. Many children might wear the same shirt two days in a row, or pull something out of the hamper if they need an item before it makes it into the laundry. After puberty, wearing clean clothes every day – especially clean socks and underwear – is an essential part of good hygiene.
Brushing and flossing. Teens must brush twice a day and floss at least once a day, especially if they’re drinking coffee or sodas. This not only prevents cavities, but also bad breath and gingivitis. You might try emphasizing the bad breath component because that will be a stronger motivator to a social conscious teen.
Preventing acne. Teens should wash their face twice a day to prevent acne. However, make sure your teen understands not to wash too vigorously, which will only irritate their skin.
Shaving. Provide your teen with instruction on using a razor for hair removal, but let them decide when they are ready to try shaving regularly.
Teen Hygiene Myths
Teens are very susceptible to believing myths surrounding puberty, mostly because they are listening to their peers. Fight these misconceptions by letting them know early on that these common myths are incorrect:
- Shaving makes hair grow back faster and thicker.
- Girls need to douche or else they’ll smell. Experts recommend against douching.
- Greasy foods cause acne.
- Getting a tan will cure acne.
- Masturbation causes blindness, hairy palms, madness, or other health calamities.
Getting Teens to Cooperate
Most teens are very receptive to advice about good hygiene because they want to be accepted by their peers, but some teens resist taking care of their bodies. If your teen is digging in their heels over good hygiene, here are some ideas for what to do:
Start early. You should start talking about teen hygiene issues and encouraging them to start adopting these practices by age 10. They are more receptive to your advice at that age and you will establish a good habit before it becomes a problem.
Make sure your information is up to date. Some of the advice you got when you were younger could be outdated now. Be sure that what you tell your teen is accurate. You might consider buying a book about teen hygiene to give them – it will help educate both of you.
Avoid nagging. If you start pleading and hassling your teen about their hygiene, you will only set up a confrontation. Once it becomes a struggle, your teen is more likely to become more stubborn.
Make good hygiene a responsibility. Explain that taking care of their body is a responsibility, and start treating it like your teen’s other household duties. Just as you expect your teen to do certain chores, they are now responsible for looking after their hygiene. Just as with other chores, if your teen doesn’t do their daily hygiene routine, they should lose privileges.
Be a good role model. If you want your teen to have good hygiene habits, you need to stick to them yourself. Don’t preach flossing when your teen knows you never do it. Don’t shuffle around the house in pajamas all weekend, but tell them to change their clothes every day. Model all of the behaviors you want your teen to adopt.