10 Ways to Teach Preteen Hygiene

When puberty arrives, it's time for a new look at how to stay healthy and presentable.



10 Ways to Teach Preteen Hygiene

Does your daughter go for days without washing her hair? Does your son fret about impressing others and always want to look and smell his best? Either way, bodies sometimes mature faster than grooming habits. While this can be touchy ground, appeal to your child's growing maturity. Offer support and advice, but make it clear that these self-care tasks are his responsibility — and you know he can handle them.

  1. Bother to Bathe. The most basic of hygiene rituals — but somehow the old soapy routine doesn't appeal to all tweens. A shower every day or two is a must, and always after a rigorous sports practice or outdoor play. Equip her with washcloths and soap, or special face and body washes for her skin type.
  2. Make Time for Toothbrushing. While it may bewilder you to think about that fuzzy feeling of unbrushed teeth, some kids hate to do the deed. Be persistent. Talk about gingivitis, cavities, and bad breath (often the most convincing evil of all). Always have floss and mouthwash on hand.
  3. Look, Ma: Clean Hands. Encourage frequent hand-washing, especially before eating and after using the bathroom, sneezing, or playing with pets. Make sure your child knows to scrub with warm soapy water for at least 15 seconds, rinse, and dry. Fill him in on the risks of preventable infections and transmittable viruses.
  4. Sweep Away Sweat. Body odor usually becomes evident when puberty hits. Discuss the difference between deodorant, which controls bacteria while adding fragrance, and antiperspirant, which is supposed to stop or limit sweating.
  5. De-Grease Hair. Many preteens find their hair gets oilier as they grow. Encourage a thorough washing every day or two. An added benefit: keeping hair clean and out of your child's face will lessen breakouts caused by oil and greasy hair products.
  6. Stop Skin Suffering. Like hair, skin tends to become oilier as puberty progresses — especially the "T-zone," or the forehead and bridge of the nose. Encourage gentle face-washing once or twice a day with a mild cleanser. Most importantly, urge your child not to pick at any pimple or blackhead on her face. Not only will germy fingers worsen the bump, but picking causes inflammation, spreads the oil, and can leave permanent scars.
  7. Time to Shave? Middle school is when many girls want to start shaving. Buy a kid-friendly razor and shaving cream. Offer tips for tricky spots like ankles, knees, and underarms. Talk about how often to rinse the razor and change the blade. For a boy who is ready to shave, it's also nice to have an older family member coach him the first few times.
  8. Prevent Not-So-Nice Nails. Advise your tween to clip weekly and cut nails straight across to prevent ingrown nails. Try to nix nail-biting by teaching about possible infections to the nail or surrounding skin. Mention that it spreads germs from your fingers to your mouth and inside your body.
  9. Plan a Piercing Carefully. If you agree to let your preteen get her ears — or some other body part — pierced, do your homework first. Choose a clean studio with an experienced, knowledgeable staff. Look to see if they dispose of needles in a sharps box (usually red plastic, like in hospitals). Check for sterile equipment, and make sure the staff members wear fresh gloves for each procedure.
  10. Discussing Feminine Hygiene. Tell your tween daughter about different ways bacteria can harm her body. Advise her not to share hairbrushes or makeup, especially things used near her eyes or mouth — it spreads germs! Help her feel comfortable asking questions or raising concerns about menstruating, and teach her which products to use, how often to change them, and how to chart her cycle.
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