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Keeping your body hygienic

Puberty is a good time for your child to learn to take care of their personal hygiene more independently.

Introduction

Changes to your child’s body during puberty means they will need to include new activities in their personal care and hygiene routines. This may include things like:

Puberty is a good time for your child to learn to take care of their personal hygiene more independently. It gives them an opportunity to get to know and feel more in control their body. It is also beneficial for their future, as a child who can manage their personal care and hygiene will be less reliant on other adults in their life as they grow older.

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While not all children will be able to manage their hygiene and personal care completely independently, it is important to provide your child with as much choice and control over their personal care as possible. This can include:

  • asking your child for their consent before assisting them with personal care activities. This helps to reinforce that all people need to ask for consent before touching another person. See Consent and Personal Care for more information
  • providing as much privacy as possible during personal care activities. This can involve closing the bathroom/toilet door or closing the shower curtain for the parts of personal care that you do not need to assist with
  • building your child’s skills to do as much of their personal care as they can. This could be smaller tasks or bigger tasks, depending on your child’s capacity. For example, holding the wash cloth while you guide their hand, or lifting their arms up while you take their shirt off.
  • giving your child the opportunities to make choices. For example, they could choose their preferred scent of body wash and deodorant, or their preferred colour of wash cloth

Not all children are enthusiastic and willing participants in their personal care and hygiene routines. Some children really dislike personal care activities. Showering in particular can be a big challenge. When this happens it can be helpful to think about things that might motivate your child to shower more often.

This can include:

  • social motivation: explaining that not showering regularly can make you smelly. Other people might not like the way you smell and may not want to play or hang out with you.
  • reward based motivation: for some children with disability the social reasons for showering may not be very motivating. In this case, creating a reward choices board may be a good option. To do this, you can:
    • work with your child to make a picture board of small rewards like treats or favourite activities.
    • ask them to pick a reward off the board that they would like when they have finished showering
    • give them praise and the reward straight away once they have finished showering. It can take some time for your child to start associating showering with the reward, so give them a week or two to adjust to this new program. This method can be used to help teach other behaviours not just showering.

Strategies for you to try

Use a visual schedule

Use visual schedules to break down new skills into steps that can be represented by pictures or words. Your child can then follow the steps for completing that skill. For example, the steps for putting on deodorant.

Model good personal care and hygiene practices

Show your child how to put take care of their body by modelling to them how you take care of your body. Talk through what you’re doing as you do it. For example, ‘I’ve just gone to the toilet, so now I’m going to wash my hands’.

Describe what you’re doing as you do it

When providing personal care for your child, describe what you are doing as you do it. This helps them to learn the steps of the process, even if they aren’t able to do them independently. Also, frequently check in with them by asking ‘Is this OK?’ This tells your child that taking care of their body is important and that they can say stop at any time.

Create an environment for your child to practice independence

Set up the environment to support your child to be independent. This could include giving your child a drawer in the bathroom with all their chosen products for their personal care and hygiene routine. It can also include numbering the products in the order that your child needs to use them. Pictures of these products can be included in your child’s visual schedule.

won’t shower, not washing their genitals

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Introduction to puberty for girls
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