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Smells Like Teen Spirit: Changing Bodies and that Teen Hygiene Issue

How to talk to your tween about hygiene practices without making him feel self-conscious

Jo Langford

Published on: January 20, 2015

So, you walk into your tween’s room and it smells like they've been slaying vampires in there ... Not to worry! Below are some tips for talking to your tween about hygiene. 

What not to do:

1. Don’t panic, vampires are not real — it’s just your kid. And no, there is nothing medically wrong with them. Hormones kick in around 10 or 11 and that wet-dog smell is one of the first signs that puberty is imminent.

2. Don’t let puberty freak you out too much. You can't avoid it, but you can be prepared for it. 

3. Don’t let your grief eclipse your excitement for this new stage in their life. It's okay to be sad about the loss of your little kid, look at old pictures, hug them when they let you — but it's important to be there for them during this stage, too. 

4. Don’t call it “that wet dog smell” in front of them. Tweens with changing bodies can be seriously self-conscious.

5. Don’t assume your preteen is just going figure out the new and necessary change in hygiene requirements.

What you can do: 

1. Open the window, if seasonally appropriate.

2. Take your tween shopping for some deodorant. Just make sure to avoid Axe, aluminum if you can, and those crystal thingies (they will not work on this).

3. While you’re out, pick up a couple of batches of new socks.

4. Start the conversation by congratulating him on his changing body — he is starting to become an adult! Celebrate, share some of your own stories, and work around the general idea that with an adult comes benefits and responsibilities. This could be a good time to teach your tween how to start doing the laundry as well.

5. Explain to them that other people can smell your tween's smells much more quickly and vividly than your tween can, and they needs to act appropriately. 

Tthere are going to be times when your tween cannot smell his or herself. There are biological reasons for this. Mostly it has to do with back when we were cave people and needed to smell invaders and other creatures coming without being distracted by our own funk — it’s all very complicated. But even though we have evolved in a lot of ways, our bodies still go though periods when we can’t smell our own smells. The point is, it's importnat that your tween realizes that we are no longer cave people, so we need to not smell like them. Everyone between 11 and 21 should be carrying extra, "emergency deodorant” in their backpacks.

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