Kids go through many phases as they grow up, but one of the most perplexing for many parents is when a previously clean kid starts avoiding the shower. It doesn't seem to matter that your child is otherwise vain; all of a sudden he doesn't want to bathe, wash his hair, or brush his teeth. And what's even more alarming is that not every kid goes through this phase.
So what are the causes of hygiene-neglect? Is it normal? And what can you do to help your tween or teen move through it as quickly as possible? Here, Circle of Moms members share their experiences.
After wondering why her daughter was skipping showers to the point that she smelled bad, Iris A. figured out that her daughter was mildly depressed. Neglecting self-care is a common symptom of depression. If someone is too sad, or too beleaguered by low self-esteem or by thoughts of emotional or social problems, self-care is one of the first things to go.
What to Do About It
Your child needn't have full-blown depression in order to exhibit these behaviors; she might simply be distracted with life at school and among her friends. One Circle of Moms parent who didn't feel the need to address the problem head-on simply took her daughter swimming a lot. It didn't address the root concern, but it effectively got her clean! Another, Jen T., bought her daughter body wash as an indirect way of communicating that she needed it, and also takes her daughter's laundry out of her room so that she wears clothes only once.
If you have any inkling that your child might be depressed, take him to see a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health care provider right away. A professional might be able to see something you can't.
Michele W. was shocked when her son hit puberty and stopped changing his socks and underwear. He still applied deodorant, but only in lieu of showering. He seemed to be too tired to bother with basic hygiene.
Should You Force the Issue?
Michele and several other Circle of Moms members say this is natural and not worth fighting since it's a phase that passes when the hormonal surges die down. They point out that there are good reasons teenagers are so lethargic and lazy; they are growing and changing rapidly, both physically and emotionally.
Karen A. agrees that showering is not worth a fight, but draws a line at teeth brushing: her kids must, absolutely, brush their teeth, as not doing so has long-term health consequences.
3. Asserting Control
The push-pull that underlies many aspects of parenting tends to come to a head during the teen years. Power struggles are magnified — and what better way for a teen to exercise some power than to control the one thing that's undeniably his own and no one else's? The body is precisely that thing, and that's why, as Melanie B. explains, only some kids go through this phase. If you don't think your teen is depressed or overly hormonal, then chalk it up to a willful temperament that may one day serve them well.
"Kids Don't Smell Themselves"
Jen T. thinks the reason for many teens' neglect of personal hygiene is often very simple: Kids don't smell themselves! Whatever the root cause of your teen's neglect of hygiene, try to understand the context in which it's happening, so that you can choose an appropriate response — which may well be to do nothing and wait for the phase to pass.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.