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personal care/hygiene in teenagers

(10 Posts)
Gingerbics Thu 28-Apr-16 06:39:47

Hi I work with teenagers in care and wondered if anyone had any strategies or suggestions that may help motivate teenagers who have poor personal hygiene to the point where they smell very sweaty and others have told them this?
I did discover a phone app to encourage teeth brushing called My Teeth but couldn't find anything similar for general care such as showering, brushing hair etc.
Any suggestions would be most welcome. Obviously there are many complicating factors for many of the young people. Many thanks for your help

OP’s posts: |
Yukduck Thu 28-Apr-16 11:47:13

Just a few thoughts:
Sometimes an electric toothbrush is more exciting than the traditional one and can get the yp to take up tooth cleaning. As can a visit to the dentist who may be able to encourage. I had success with electric toothbrushes.
With regards to the showering and personal areas washing. It can be more deep seated than just a fear of soap and water. There may be issues over getting undressed (past sexual abuse), fear that someone may come into the bathroom during ablutions (past situations where yp lacked privacy or was laughed at/derided whilst washing), or just not really caring about personal hygiene (low self esteem).
A SW once told me in a similar situation, to run a nice warm bubbly bath but let the YP get in with their vest and pants on. I never managed to do this as the yp objected to my being in the bathroom running the bath, and the actual getting into the bath never happened (although they were in there a long time and there was the sound of splashing!).
I would work on the self esteem first. Maybe also firm solid locks on the door that the yp can feel safe with (but not so safe you can't get them out in an emergency).

Gingerbics Thu 28-Apr-16 11:58:00

Thanks yuckduck that's really helpful. Electric toothbrushes are a good tip as more efficient if they're only brushing for short periods/ rare occasions!
I wondered if bath bombs may appeal to some young people too as fun and lots of cool colours etc. you're right about self esteem often being the underlying issue.
It's so difficult as so many of the young people are desperate to fit in and be popular but body odour is a huge barrier to that.
There's a good video cartoon clip called ' some of your bits ain't nice' which is available on YouTube and the school nurses often use to promote awareness but that's the only one I could find.
Thanks again, it's a tough and complex one!

OP’s posts: |
Evertrue Thu 05-May-16 12:59:34

One of our foster kids had the exact same issue. We tried to be subtle but it just didn’t work. It came to a head when she asked me to help her dry her hair. She’s got out of the bath and it was wet but it was FILTHY at the roots, thick matted and greasy. She claimed to have properly washed it but it was clear she hadn’t. I checked the shampoo bottle as we’d brought her one of our own choosing when she had moved in 5 weeks before. It was still full, as was her bottle of body wash.

I sat her down a few days later and had a long chat with her about it. I was honest to the point of being brutal about how she smelt and the impact that had on us all. I reassured her of her love and that it wasn't her fault. She had been in care for 3 years (on and off) and this was the first time anyone had actually asked her if knew how to wash - she didn’t. She thought washing was getting wet. No-one had ever taught her anything different and she hadn’t picked it up for herself as at "home" there had been no routine, no soap and usually no hot water.

Sitting in our living room, I demonstrated the amount of shampoo etc she’d need, how to wash her hair, how to wash her body etc. For weeks after I’d linger outside the bathroom shouting things like “Have you put shampoo on your hair”, “have you used the body scrubber, with the soap?” etc etc. On several occasions she'd get out and I'd smell her and send her right back in. It was harsh but as she admitted it was impacting her friendship at school (she was the class smelly kid) it was worth it. We also brought her loads of good strong deodorants, Mitchum was her favourite. Enough roll-ons and sprays to keep some in the bathroom, others in her bedroom and in her various school bags - meant there was no excuse for forgetting or not being able to find one.
We also discussed washing clothing. She was used to wearing the same things for days and would keep the dirty clothing under her pillows only for it to be put back on a few days later.

It was not a quick fix but things are greatly improved and generally she is very good now. Its been 2 years and the only problem really is still forgetting to brush teeth, and if there is a change to the routine (eg school holidays). We have a “bath” timetable on the wall, to remind all the kids which days they go in, and I still have to ask if everyone has brushed teeth before we leave the house as at least one child will forget.

My advice is to be honest, understanding and patient – but most of all be persistent. The situation won’t change overnight and you’ll need to work to instil the proper routines. However its also something that is pretty easy to sort compared to some behavioral or emotional problems.

Good luck!

Evertrue Thu 05-May-16 13:08:36

Also - Yukducks advise is bang on. For children who have been abused personal hygiene can be very emotive. Some children will use it as a way of making themselves unappealing and in extreme cases can have a total disassociation from their body. Good locks are important when establishing trust.

Bathbombs are good at getting kids in the bath – but not so good at getting them to actually wash. Lush “fun” is a sort of playdoh-soap product that can help with this, if you explain it first.

Remember what seems logical and normal to you might be unimaginable to them. I still remember one child being surprised when I changed their bed after they were sick. Their parents had just flipped the quilt and left it.


Gingerbics Wed 11-May-16 22:24:33

Evertrue - thank you so so much for taking the time to reply in such detail, that is helpful and has given me lots to think about. That's such a valid point that they may have not ever been shown how to wash properly and I hadn't thought of that. I'll check
Out the Play Do style stuff in Lush, actually I may go in and have a really good peruse!!
Thanks again you really have been helpful, sorry I only just realised you'd replied just now. smile

OP’s posts: |
Ticktacktock Thu 12-May-16 22:38:13

My FD didn't know how to wash her hair. It only came to light when I questioned her about almost a full bottle of shampoo disappearing after only one shower.

Turns out she didn't know to wet her hair first, and was having real trouble getting the 'lather' I told her about.

Ticktacktock Fri 13-May-16 14:25:13

Sorry, that was of no help whatsoever to you, was just an observation!

In my house I have noticed that when she got her first proper boyfriend she was suddenly motivated to clean her teeth, thank goodness. I counted one brush in 3 weeks before he came along. No amount of nagging did it, and she's too big for me to march to the bathroom and do it for her, like I did when she was little.

Gingerbics Fri 20-May-16 11:31:54

Hi Ticktack thanks for your responses they ARE really helpful and that's such a valid point that they may not have ever been shown the basics of washing hair, showering etc. I will definitely bear that in mind more and not assume that they know what to do. That's interesting re your teen, I guess there will be phases where they are much more motivated to be clean and fresh!
Thank you smile

OP’s posts: |
Evertrue Thu 02-Jun-16 09:33:43

You're welcome Gingerbics, let us know how you get on!

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