Teaching children about hygiene is important – The Suffolk News-Herald
By Nathan Rice
“I’m ready,” he said as I entered his room to take him to lunch. I said, “I see you’ve changed your pajama bottoms, but also change your shirt.” You wore that shirt all day yesterday and you slept in it all night.
He sighed and searched his suitcase for a new shirt.
“While you’re at it, grab your comb to work on your hair. He could use a little help right now. He sighed again. I could tell he was a little disturbed by my request, but he changed his shirt and ran the comb through his hair, removing some of the headboard that had tangled his hair after a good night’s rest.
He was starting to leave when I asked, “And the deodorant?” He moaned loudly as he returned his hand to his suitcase.
We should teach children about personal hygiene and the need for cleanliness throughout childhood, but these lessons begin to take on a new form when children reach junior high school.
Middle school kids have outlived their time playing in the tub, but they may not have reached the point of caring enough about appearance to focus on cleanliness. This is one of the reasons caring adults should help young adolescents learn the need to take care of their hygiene.
We should start by making sure children understand the changes that are happening in their bodies and how these changes affect the need for personal hygiene. A discussion of personal hygiene should be included in discussions of puberty.
It is acceptable to establish strict guidelines or orders regarding how often clothes are changed or showers are taken. You might want to give options, like what clothes they want to wear or whether they’ll shower in the morning or evening, but the goal is to make sure they stay clean. There will be times when you may need to say that they are not allowed to wear that shirt again until they are washed or that they have to comb their hair before leaving the house.
Children need to know why we bully them about their hygiene and appearance.
“I don’t care” may be an answer if we mention wrinkled clothes, unkempt hair, or a dirty face, but we shouldn’t let that get in the way of helping them maintain their hygiene.
The goal is not to make kids obsess over looks, but to help them understand that personal hygiene is important for overall health. We can also help them understand that there is a difference between being conceited about our appearance and wanting to look presentable before leaving the house. It’s not about vanity; it’s about taking care of ourselves and helping us to always do our best.
Finally, we need to make sure that we are lenient in our directions. Kids and teens shouldn’t have to be spotless all the time. A young teenager leaving home with disheveled hair isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t make you a bad parent.
It is good to allow them to enjoy the last years of their childhood, but we should also teach them to take care of themselves and the reasons for their personal hygiene.
Nathan Rice, a Hampton Roads resident since 1988, is a branch operations manager for a regional credit union in Virginia and North Carolina. For more than 15 years, he has volunteered with children and adolescents in various organizations. He is acting pastor at the Nazarene Church in Portsmouth. His email address is [email protected]