our everyday life

How to Talk to Teens About Personal Hygiene

by Gail Sessoms

Whether your teen has a personal hygiene problem or it’s just time to have that talk, there is a right way to go about it, according to Children’s Hospital of Orange County. Conversations about teen hygiene should include puberty and the emotional and physical changes your teen can expect. Puberty means your teen has to change the way he thinks about his body and what it takes to stay clean, healthy and relatively odor-free. Puberty also means your teen will be assuming much of the responsibility for his personal hygiene, so he needs some fact-based guidance.

Speak casually and allow your teen to ask questions. Look for answers together when necessary, and stick to the facts about how his body is changing and requiring more maintenance on his part. Avoid negative, shaming words and try for an honest, open discussion.

Talk about how the changes caused by puberty require more attention to personal hygiene. For instance, more hair in more places, oily skin, dead skin cells and bacteria all add to body odor. Sweat glands work harder and chemical changes in the body cause stronger odors, especially underarm and foot odor. The face your teen washed in the morning can be oily again by early afternoon.

Help your teen plan a daily personal hygiene routine. Discuss the increased work of sweat glands. Encourage him to pay attention to his body and manage his daily routine accordingly. Some teens have very oily hair that might require daily washing. Some teens have more underarm perspiration, while others have a problem with foot odor. Regular use of lotion can prevent dry skin.

Ask your teen to commit to performing the basics every day -- showering, hair washing, oral hygiene and use of deodorant or antiperspirant. Avoid power struggles over hygiene, but insist that personal hygiene is his responsibility and, like other responsibilities, there are consequences for neglecting his duties.

Explain how clothing is a major part of personal hygiene. Clean clothing, especially socks and underwear, is necessary for good hygiene. Develop a plan to reduce odor in shoes, such as leaving the shoes outside to air out or using over-the-counter remedies for foot and shoe odor.

Have a separate talk with your teen girl about menstruation and hygiene, including the use of products such as sanitary pads, odors and handling hygiene issues when away from home.

Continue to discuss hygiene issues in the context of the facts about puberty, body changes and why daily attention is important to health and cleanliness. Context helps your teen understand hygiene is not just his problem.

Continue to talk to your teen about personal hygiene even if he seems uninterested or resentful. It’s best if he gets this information from you and, even if he doesn’t let on, he probably appreciates the discussions.

Tips

  • The age at which puberty occurs varies, based on race, genetics and other factors.
  • Identify a few resources to help with the discussion if you find some areas difficult to discuss. Ask your family doctor to discuss puberty and personal hygiene with your teen. Your dentist can have an in-depth talk with your teen about oral health and hygiene. Find a good book on the subjects or direct your teen to a trusted health website or video.
  • Make a list of the tools your teen needs to keep his body clean and healthy, such as soap, deodorant, lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush and floss.
  • Set aside time to discuss hair removal. Shaving discussions should include the safe and sanitary use of tools, like disposable shavers.
  • Remind your teen to be mindful of sharing personal hygiene items with others. Girls should not share makeup, hair accessories or other personal grooming items. Sharing the items can spread dead skin cells and bacteria.

About the Author

Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images