Expert Tips for Talking to Kids and Teens About Personal Hygiene

It’s a new year, which means many of us are onto the next chapter, focused on new and fresh opportunities. For parents and guardians, however, there are always some issues and responsibilities that move forward with us. The duty of raising our children to be decent and self-sufficient people is one. Another, that becomes especially important as children mature and start entering puberty, is personal hygiene.

Good hygiene helps children avoid getting sick and is at the center of overall health. Teaching them to take care of their bodies every day can help them avoid more serious health conditions that arise from poor hygiene. EBONY spoke with expert Chautè Thompson, LMFT, LPCC, about approaching this important conversation with your children.
When should these types of conversations start?

Start the conversation young; it’ll help encourage them to take pride in taking care of their body and self. Begin by explaining the “why” of maintaining healthy hygiene, for example, the importance of brushing your teeth after meals which keeps teeth healthy and strong.

“As children age (8 years and older) you can start to introduce the consequences of not keeping up with good hygiene habits while setting clear expectations of good hygiene in the home,” Thompson says.
How do I get and keep their attention on personal hygiene?

“As children age and become teenagers, keeping their attention on good hygiene habits will include regular conversations using “teachable moments” to help them understand the need and the consequences of poor hygiene habits,” shares Thompson. Also, developing a reward system is an effective practice for younger children learning about developing good habits.
How do I make sure they are practicing good habits while respecting their privacy?

As a parent, one of your roles is to guide; therefore. parents and guardians always have a right to check in and ask questions. “Doing this provides you with the knowledge and information needed to continue having teachable moments, as well as builds a foundation of trust,” says Thompson. “You can eventually loosen the reigns as they become consistent on following through.”
What specific practices should I advise them to follow?

In general, “foster an open line of communication with your children, so that as they age and their bodies change, they feel comfortable coming to you with questions and sharing what they are experiencing,” advises Thompson. “Be mindful that as your child ages not to tease them about their bodies maturing; instead, welcome the changes, which will help them welcome the changes as well.”

A few examples of practices to to teach them include: the correct way and frequency to brush teeth; the proper way to change menstrual products; the importance of washing clothing, especially afterperspiring; how to use deodorant; the proper care and maintenance of private parts; the need to clean bedsheets, towels and washcloths on a regular basis.