Tween: Hygiene Matters!
The pre-teen stage is the time for kids to take control of their personal hygiene. The good habits you’ve taught so far should now be near-automatic. Nevertheless, your son may ignore the rules for a while to assert his masculinity and independence, and a child with a busy schedule may also simply skip a routine. The start of puberty raises the dilemma of how to encourage your tween to wash more thoroughly without making him or her uncomfortable or embarrassed. Some ways to help:
Re-state why hygiene is important. Staying clean helps keep you healthy because you’re better protected against infection. Cleanliness also keeps tweens looking and smelling fresh, which helps socially.
Have clear expectations for daily washing routines. If everyone in the house washes their hands in the bathroom, before eating, and after playing outside, it stops being something to fuss over. Model good practices yourself.
To manage puberty comfortably, suggest a daily bath or shower before it’s clearly necessary, perhaps explaining that your tween’s action-packed day makes it sensible.
Pass more of the responsibility to your tween but pay attention to how he’s doing. If he ignores a hygiene essential, discuss it, as it could indicate a self-esteem problem. If, on the other hand, he’s simply trying to “act male,” an incentive might re-focus him.
Avoid creating an obsession with dirt and germs. Exposure to bacteria can create a useful immunity over time, and we all have “friendly” and “unfriendly” bacteria in our bodies. Cleanliness is a practical way to feel nice, prevent and contain disease, and be socially welcomed. Germ phobia could induce a fear of public spaces.
Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer is an advisor on children's learning and development and the author of Talking to Tweens and Raising Happy Kids.