Teaching correct and acceptable hygiene principles is vital to achieve life long habits in the prevention and spread of illnesses and infections, but also to maintain a suitable appearance and avoid offending others.
Methods of Education for Young Children
Encourage an enjoyable bath time by making it an integral part of every day family life. Singing songs and playing with bath toys will make this duty something to look forward to for the child and will make cleansing a ritual that will become part of life. Teach children about bacteria and fungi using picture books and express that by allowing objects and themselves to become dirty and not getting cleaned will cause bacteria to multiply and cause mould.
Allow children to play outside regularly, but explain why it is important to clean soiled clothes and bodies afterwards. Recent guidelines suggest that the most effective way of preventing and treating head lice is by using everyday conditioner and a fine toothed comb (nit comb) weekly to prevent lice or daily to treat them. This can be achieved more easily than the traditional application of pesticide treatments and children can actually help to apply the conditioner and comb it through themselves.
Allow youngsters to attempt to clean their own teeth even if they need cleaning afterwards, they will enjoy the responsibility. Give children encouragement to maintain their own hygiene; allow them to help with the laundry and the housework, this way they will learn the correct way of doing it and will carry this knowledge with them through life.
Allow teenagers a choice of deodorants or let them purchase these products themselves. They will be grateful for the responsibility, understand the differences in products, be more likely to use the items purchased and will appreciate the financial cost.
Find material explaining the principles of hygiene that is suitable for their age group and is not written in a patronising manner; magazines and simple leaflets often work better than books, of which the reading will often be seen as ‘work’ rather than a pastime.
Ensure that teenagers realise the reasons for deodorant and that exercising will require more provisions, allow them to take these provisions with them to school if permitted by the establishment.
If certain areas need addressing, talk to them whilst they are distracted by something else as this will make the situation less embarrassing for them and will promote more honest answers and allow them to listen without the subject seeming like a major issue.
Teach young girls about menstrual issues at an early age, so they know what to expect and know not to be embarrassed about it.
Educate teens about acne and why spots shouldn’t be squeezed. If acne is persistent and unresponsive to treatment, make an appointment with your GP or dermatologist as acne can significantly affect the sufferer’s quality of life and confidence.
Encourage your children to remove their school shoes and possibly change their socks after school to allow sweat to evaporate, thus avoiding smelly feet.
Ensure teenagers know that diet can influence the amount of grease on their hair and that fizzy drinks will permanently damage their teeth.
Growing up is challenging and children rely on their carers to teach them these basic life skills. This can be done covertly or very openly, every family is different. As long as an acceptable level of hygiene and a general understanding of consequences of poor hygiene are understood, children and teens should have no problems caring for themselves.