Hygiene and Preteens: Supporting Good Habits

Your preteen is reaching a transition time of emotional and physical changes. Some preteens become overly anxious thinking about hygiene, others are completely unaware of themselves. They all need your support and guidance to be clean, healthy and happy.

Talk It Out!

preteen girl with braces
  • Talking about hygiene is a sensitive subject for your preteen. Try not to insult them when you give advice. Explain that this is a time of many bodily changes, and you are helping him/her to be confident and accepted by others.
  • Warn your preteen to be careful of what friends say about bodily changes and habits.
  • Understand puberty. Boys need to know about things like nocturnal emissions; for girls, dealing with periods. Do some research together, use the right words, and talk to them about keeping clean and being ready. Have your pediatrician help you give this talk if you need to.
  • If possible, have a parent or relative of the same sex coach your preteen.
  • Discuss germs, and that kids should not share hairbrushes, makeup, drinks, or food.

How to Handle

  • Bathing - Every day with soap, including the feet, and after physical exercise. No excuses!
  • Sweat - Use deodorant and antiperspirant. Wash all clothes before wearing again and change socks every day.
  • Hair - Wash frequently with appropriate shampoo. Explain that oily hair makes acne and skin conditions worse. If your preteen wishes to start shaving, get a safety razor and carefully walk him/her through it, including how to clean up afterwards.
  • Skin - Wash with a gentle cleanser every day. Tell your preteen that picking or touching zits will leave scars and spread more bacteria across the face.
  • Teeth - Brush and floss at least twice a day, especially if preteens have braces. Remind them that not only is it healthy, but people won't want to be around them if they have bad breath.
  • Hands - Wash before eating, after bathroom, sneezing and playing with pets. Keep nails trimmed (cut straight across to prevent ingrowth) and don't bite them!
  • Ears - If your preteen wants to get their ears pierced, the best place is the doctor's office, where the process will be cleanly done.
  • Smelling good - Perfume, body splash or cologne should be applied with a single drop behind each ear. However, be aware that some schools do not allow students to wear it. It is NOT a substitute for showering, but can be a nice final touch to a clean presentation!

Extra Reminders

  • Your preteens may need more time in the bathroom to handle these new rituals, especially if they have special needs. Be patient, and encourage them to get up earlier so they have time before school.
  • Encourage your preteen to carry products in their backpack in a zippered pouch: deodorant, extra underwear, pads, etc.
  • Give compliments when your preteen puts in effort to be clean, smell nice and look presentable. Positive reinforcement works better than nagging!

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