Teenager Has Bad Hygiene Habits: How Can I Help Him?

Q.I have a stepson who is now 18 years old and has terrible hygiene habits. He doesn’t like to brush his teeth with any kind of toothpaste so he just doesn’t brush them at all. He has terrible body odour even when he showers. I have tried everything from talking gently to yelling, to embarrassing him – I cannot stand it as he smells and his room smells. When it starts coming out into other rooms I get very angry, this has been going on since I first met his Dad 8 years ago.

I’m at my wits end and even went so far as subscribing to a paper on hygiene addressed to him (which he probably doesn’t read). I dont know what to do. Any suggestions?

(L.S, 7 April 2009)

A.Whilst the majority of teenage girls spend hours on their personal hygiene and appearance, teenage boys are often a little more reluctant to devote much time on the essentials. Helping a teenager understand the importance of maintaining good levels of personal hygiene however need not be an overwhelming task.

How to Address the Problem

Drawing attention to someone’s lack of personal hygiene often has the opposite effect. Teenagers are particularly adept at switching off when they are being told something they do not want to acknowledge, so ranting and raving about body odour and bad hygiene is a waste of your time. Instead dropping casual comments about how great other people smell – perhaps your partner or close male friend – will subtly open communication between you and a teenager. Repeating comments, over a period of time, will also have a subliminal effect.

Offering to kit out the bathroom in a new range of toiletries, for individual members of your household, is also effective. It is hard to resist the packaging of some products, so it is worth taking your time over the purchases.

Accepting Personal Differences

Not everyone secretes sweat in the same amount, so you will have to accept that teenagers all smell differently, even if this is sometimes unpleasant. Masking personal odours with highly fragranced body sprays does not solve the problem however, so it is worth talking about personal hygiene from a peer perspective.

Teenagers will want to fit in with their peer group and smelling like one of the pack is just as important. If you know your child’s friends, and are aware of their hygiene standards, mentioning how important it is to maintain good hygiene around others may work wonders.

Room for Improvement

To overcome deadly bedroom smells encourage your teen to air his room from time to time. This is best done when you change the bedding as you will want to freshen the rest of the room too. Open the window and consider burning some fragrant essential oils, in a burner, whilst your teen is out of the house. Once they get used to being surrounded by pleasant smells a teenager will be more inclined to increase awareness of other smells around them – including their own.

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