Not too long ago he could run around all day and get away with skipping a shower once in a while. As your child has entered his tween years however, a daily shower is not only recommended but required. How can you gently explain to him that his ‘manly’ musk may not smell so sweet to those around him with out causing him to get irritated and annoyed, or feel embarrassed or insulted?
How do you gently explain that deodorant is no longer optional for her despite the fact that she is showering daily? Or maybe, she begged you to let her shave her legs. Her relentless ranting resulted in you allowing her to do so. Not before however, you explained that once she starts shaving she will need to keep up regularly. You detailed that her hair is likely to come in darker, faster and thus be more noticeable. When she raises her arm to get something you realize however, that she clearly did not get the message. She has always been a sensitive child. This whole tween thing has made her even more so. In fact these days you walk on egg shells because she seems like such a prickly pear no matter what you say to her.
Maybe she recently joined the ranks of womanhood and although she keeps herself fresh and clean she seems to forget that her siblings have to share the bathroom with her. She pays little attention to what she discards where. If you have to plunge the toilet one more time… I know, yuck! Not topics you want to think about let alone discuss.
You feel caught in quite a dilemma. You don’t want to hurt his feelings or embarrass him but you worry about the outside consequences if you don’t bring your hygiene concerns to his attention. Kids at this age can be especially mean, even cruel. You do not want his stinky feet, or her bad breath to be the main topic among his friends and peers on the internet! Are you over reacting? Are you being too dramatic? Are you better off saying nothing? Not any easy dilemma to discern.
As parents we are charged with keeping our children safe and happy. While there may be some days when this feels like an impossible task (especially now that they are tweens) overall we are proud of our efforts. Our children are awesome! They are incredibly talented, caring and kind. They reflect beauty both inside and out! Who would want to spoil the pristine image they portray due to a hygiene issue such as body odor, stinky feet, bad breath, uncombed/unwashed hair, etc…? Better the words come from you than from a source that does not have their best interests at heart.
You may need to get over the idea that you want your kids to like what you have to say. You may have to tolerate a negative response. Remember, the “ends justify the means,” and your failure to take action, talk reason could result in greater harm than good. After all, your child’s self-esteem may be at stake.
So what should you say? How do you express your concerns as kindly and carefully as possible? Here are some suggestions. Let’s be clear however, that even if you talk with your tween as gently and kindly as possible, it is very likely he will still respond negatively. After all, your opinion carries far more weight than you may realize. Remember, it is not her immediate reaction that matters, but the end result.
1.) Timing is everything. Carefully choose a time to discuss the issue. Don’t, for example, try to grab him as he is running out the door or when she is just waking up, especially if she is not a morning person.
2.) Calmly and casually present your concern. Be honest about how hard it is to broach the subject. You could say for example, “You know I love you and I never want to make you feel bad. I just want to remind you how important it is to use deodorant. You are growing up and part of that is that your body is changing. You may not realize this but I have. I would never want any of your friends or peers to embarrass you. This is hard to say but I rather it come from me than anyone else.”
3.) Make sure you provide the products he needs. Whether it is stinky feet or greasy hair, purchase what you think he needs. If she wants some other product ask her if she wants to come with you or offer to purchase what he wants (within reason of course).
4.) Validate her positive response. Some time in the near future if you notice she is following your directive let her know what a difference it makes. If for example, he is now spraying his sneakers with deodorant regularly you should acknowledge his efforts: “I’m proud of you. I know it was hard to hear what I had to say but you solved the problem.” This may be hard for your tween to hear so don’t get concerned if his response is less than appreciative. He hears you just the same.
5.) Revisit the issue if he doesn’t heed your advice. No one wants to make himself the target of teasing. If he does not seem to get the message address this with him. It is important to be aware that sometimes an inattention to hygiene can be an indication that there is more going on than you may realize. Specifically this can be a sign of depression. Talk with her about your concerns. Ask her if she would like to talk to an outside counselor.
Tackling these tween topics is never easy. Remember, however, your kids look to you for support and guidance. They only know what they know. Sometimes it takes a quick chat to ensure that they are always presenting themselves appropriately. Even if their reaction is far from grateful, think about the potential consequences if you reframe from redirection.