How to Teach Good Hygiene

If you’re a parent, you are also a teacher. You have the incredibly difficult, challenging, amazing, wonderful, emotional job of helping the little life you created grow up healthy, smart, and strong. And one of the more awkward parts of the job can be teaching good hygiene.

I’m sure my mom dreaded certain questions and milestones in my life (and looked forward to others). Questions about smells and the prevention of smells can be some of the most uncomfortable ones — whether you’re talking to a friend, a child, a parent, or a coworker.

Here are some tips to help make it a little less uncomfortable to talk about good hygiene habits:

  • Lead by example. Many children want to emulate mom and dad (at least until they hit their teens), so if mom and dad are meticulous about personal hygiene, the kids will pick up on it. Shower or bathe regularly. Change clothes daily. Wash your hands before handling food, or after touching something dirty. You don’t necessarily have to point out every little thing you do — they’ll notice.
  • Be comfortable with your own body. It’s hard to answer the personal questions if you’re embarrassed or ashamed of your own personal hygiene!
  • Know your body. If there’s something you’re worried about, talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional. Do research if you don’t want to ask. Once you understand why things happen, it may be a little easier to field questions.
  • Make good hygiene a habit or ritual. Maybe washing your face and brushing your teeth with your child can be part of the bedtime routine. Maybe washing hands can be part of your meal routine.
  • Demonstrate the “right” way to wash. Like washing your hands — some folks suggest singing Happy Birthday or the ABCs while you scrub to make sure you do it long enough. Show your child how to scrub fingers, palms, and nails. Demonstrate tooth brushing — either by brushing for your child, or by making exaggerated faces while you brush and your child watches.

Most importantly, think about how YOU would want to be taught. Would you rather be shamed into washing up because you’re dirty and smelly? Or would you rather have a parent make it fun, positive, and healthy?