Family

Tackle adolescent hygiene challenges

When teens hit puberty, hygiene suddenly drops way down their priority list. That dimpled toddler who loved splashing in the tub now eschews even the shortest of showers, preferring to slouch around the house in the same grotty jeans and T-shirt they’ve been wearing for a week, with greasy hair and halitosis that even the family dog steers clear of.

Take heart, in a few years you’ll wish you could get them out of the bathroom and away from the bewildering array of personal care products they seem to have collected. But in the meantime, what’s a mum to do?

Grease is the word

Is your teenager’s mane oily and stringy? Individual strands of hair have their own sebaceous glands, which produce the oil that gives your tresses their glossy shine. But when puberty hits, these glands start working overtime, flooding teens’ scalps with enough oil to lubricate an engine.

  • Make sure the shampoo they’re using is formulated for the type of hair they have. If their hair is oily and greasy, get a shampoo that addresses these problems. If they’re snowing their shoulders with white flakes, look for a dandruff-reducing type. Try the brands specially aimed at teens – yes, you’ll be giving in to advertising, but at this age, it’s vitally important to your teen that even their shampoo is the cool brand.

  • Treat them to a proper cut and style at a decent salon where they’re treated like an adult and where the staff are trendy. Your teen desperately wants to be considered grown up, so skip the cheap mall hair places and splurge on a decent venue.An hour or two in a posh salon where they’ve got one-on-one attention from a trained stylist might impress them enough to provoke a change in their ways. The stylist can also give your teen non-judgemental, objective advice on dealing with their hair. And once they see how cool their locks can look, they’ll be more motivated to maintain the cut and style. **

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What’s that smell?

Underarm odours, pervasive perspiration, and socks so smelly their stink lines are practically visible to the naked eye – while it’s tempting to turn the hose on your teen as soon as they walk in the house, or install a time lock on the shower door to force them to stay in there for more than three minutes, you may need to resort to more diplomatic strategies. Teenagers are extremely emotionally sensitive – those same raging hormones that are responsible for body odour also make them vulnerable to even the mildest forms of criticism.

  • Have a quiet word to your teen about their hygiene, preferably alone. In the car is ideal, because the inability to make eye contact while you’re driving may lower the embarrassment factor. Mr see if another adult can do the talking. A family friend, older sibling, aunt, uncle, or even your GP might just be able to speak the words your teen needs to hear. Just make sure they don’t let on that you’re behind the talking-to.

  • You can also indulge in a bit of reverse psychology. Give your teen dirty jobs such as washing the car, bathing the family dog, de-greasing the barbecue, cleaning out the fridge, or turning over the compost heap. These tasks are so grotty they can’t help but want to get clean afterward.

Getty mouthy

Bad breath is revolting, yet some teens don’t seem to mind their exhalations can kill a houseplant from 20 paces. Not to mention their mouth is a fertile breeding ground for germs, gum disease and tooth decay. Short of forcibly brushing their teeth for them, how can you get them to pick up a toothbrush once in a while?

  • For starters, take them to the dentist. If your teen won’t listen to your advice on dental hygiene, the word from a drill-wielding dentist might do the trick. Dental care is free for teenagers up to age 18, so you won’t be out of pocket for the initial scare tactics. Ring 0800 487 3733 to find out which dentists in your area offer free care for under-18s.In the meantime, point your teen to the website  www.healthysmiles.org.nz and click on “Teens” – there’s a seriously disturbing photo of dental erosion that made me want to brush my teeth as soon as I saw it. Remind your teen that halitosis is truly unattractive, and blackened, decayed teeth are not only unsightly, they’re unhealthy – and can be very expensive to fix.

  • Another method to encourage dental cleanliness in teens is to give them some responsibility. Does your teen have a younger sibling? Make it their job to ensure their little brother or sister brushes their teeth – and the best way to ensure they’re doing it right is to set a good example.Wide-eyed, innocent questions about why Big Brother doesn’t brush his teeth can also spur your teen into action. Lastly, make sure your teen actually owns a good toothbrush and toothpaste and that it’s in a visible spot in the bathroom. Keep a few spares handy just in case.

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