Parent to Parent: What’s That Smell? Teens and ‘Tweens Hygiene
Overheard in the teachers’ lounge at a local Jr. High
(the benefits of being a substitute teacher): “Boy that Jenkins kid really stinks up the place! I can’t stand to have him come up to my desk for a Kleenex!”
“Don’t blame me, he smells like that before gym.”
“Don’t their parents make them take a bath?”
Could they be talking about your child?
I often joke about my own “stinky, smelly boys” but certainly true body odor is no joke. And nobody really wants to send their children to school with offensive body odors. But sometimes, it can sneak up on you.
It’s true. Our sweet-smelling babies grow up into stinky, smelly adolescents before our very eyes, and there’s not much we can do about it. Once they’ve outgrown our insistence on washing their face for them, they’re on their own.
Sometimes it’s just poor hygiene habits.
Some kids “forget” to wash up or bathe before school. I’ve heard them say they just roll out of bed and onto the bus. Since the bus comes so early, I don’t really blame them. At least not until they’re coming up to the teacher’s desk for a question, and I get a real good whiff. And unless somebody speaks up, many kids are truly clueless about the scents emanating from their own body.
Maybe as parents we should all start in on hygiene lessons a little earlier, so that they grow up with good habits.
Once they’ve hit puberty, and hormones kick in, there’s not much you can do except nag. But if your nine-year-old actually likes feeling grown-up enough to put on deodorant in the morning (just like Dad!), then you may never have to smell him. Or her, since body odor knows no gender.
For me, it’s difficult to transition my boys from the Saturday night bath to a daily morning shower, but most kids should at least wash up (and cover more area than just the face). And parents should also encourage a relaxing shower after strenuous exercise. Maybe a science lesson about how bacteria thrives in warm, moist (sweaty) environments will inspire them toward a life of cleanliness.
Sometimes it’s just poor dental hygiene, leading to bad breath.
I confess to not instilling the best habits in my own children. I get off routine, I forget a step (brush, floss, rinse, repeat at bedtime) and my kids are great at distracting me from observing and inspecting to make sure they’ve done a good job. But the push is on to turn tooth brushing from a chore, complete with nagging, into a well-established habit, before we have extra difficulties, like braces.
What if it’s not your child, but their friend who’s carrying around a little smelliness?
And what if it has nothing at all to do with their habits?
Sometimes it’s pure economics
A parent trying to get the monthly check to last, no more quarters left for the Laundromat, maybe no hot water? Food stamps don’t pay for soap, either. There are ways to help out, discreetly. For one, if your child’s best friend complains about “no hot water”, you could always offer the use of yours.
Remembering how awkward Jr. High was is far more important than your water bill.
And if you’re fortunate enough to be hosting the gang after shooting hoops in your driveway, you could always offer up some irresistible snacks in return for “cleaning up, not smelling up”. Isn’t that why you have three bathrooms in the first place? Their parents will thank you for sending their sweet-smelling babies back home again.
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