Personal Hygiene

What your kids should know

Teaching your child about personal hygiene is very important both for health reasons and for social acceptance. Children who don't learn proper ways to clean and dress suffer ridicule and embarrassment and are left at risk for a number of diseases.

The first thing to teach your children, from a very young age, is to wash their hands. By keeping their hands clean, they reduce the spread of germs. In our home, my mother taught us the ABC rule. Children should wash with soap and warm water while they sing their ABCs. We were required to wash before meals and after using the restroom, playing outside or playing with our pets.

Although babies do not need to bathe every night, use a warm napkin to do some spot cleaning. By the time your children are running around and making messes, you may want to implement a nightly bath. Not only will this become a nightly ritual for getting them ready for bed, but it will also teach them the importance of cleaning themselves. During bath time, refrain from using bubbles, or use them sparingly, since young girls are susceptible to bladder infections.

As soon as your children are old enough, have them wash themselves. Assist in cleaning their hair to avoid getting soap in their eyes, but teach them how to clean properly. Focus on their privates, under their arms, under any folds in their skin, their feet and tough-to-reach areas.

Make it a habit to have your children brush their teeth right when they wake up and right before they go to bed. Better yet, teach them to brush right after they eat. Show your children how to floss properly and make it a daily habit. Teach them to brush in small circular movements for two minutes. If you get them an electric toothbrush, you can actually set it to beep so they know to switch positions.

Make sure your children know how to wipe properly after using the restroom. A rule of thumb for girls: wipe front to back to prevent any bacteria from causing painful urinary tract (bladder) infections. After a bowel movement, be sure that your child wipes efficiently. A good idea is to get some wet wipes that your child can use to make sure he or she is clean.

When a girl starts menstruating, make sure that she knows when to change her pad or tampon. If she keeps a tampon in too long, she risks Toxic Shock Syndrome. As your children hit puberty, make sure they start using deodorant and taking extra care to clean their private parts.

It is important to teach your children to dress appropriately. Clean underwear and clean socks (to prevent athlete's foot) daily are a must. Since it's not eco-friendly to wash jeans and sweatshirts with every wear, make sure they know when the appropriate time is to throw them in the laundry.

Good hygiene is important. By teaching your children at a young age to take care of themselves, and by setting a good example, you will ensure your children grow up competent and able to care for themselves appropriately.

By Molly Carter