Puberty changes bring new challenges for all children and youth. They may notice that overnight they have oily hair, smell bad and start getting pimples. Hygiene is important for health (e.g., teeth cleaning to prevent cavities and gum disease) but also for social reasons such as smelling and looking good. Good hygiene and self-care is considered to be a positive social quality and can help us feel good about ourselves.
Children and youth with disabilities may need extra support to follow hygiene rules and routines. They may struggle reading social cues and knowing when to fix a hygiene issue such as smelly breath. Also, if a youth has a physical disability they may need extra help with personal care.
Although parents are likely the main educators when it comes to hygiene and self-care, service providers can make a difference when they reinforce the messages given by parents. Service providers are in a unique position to support both parents and children/youth through the process of puberty. Consistent messages from both parents and service providers can make great impact when it comes to the management of hygiene and self-care.
Hayley is 10 years old. Her parents have recently noticed that she is beginning to show signs of puberty including body odour, underarm hair, and some signs of breast growth. They are worried as they have to give Hayley lots of support and reminders with very basic self-care, such as cleaning her teeth and brushing her hair. Hayley has not received any sexuality education, so has not been introduced to the concept of puberty and the changes that will be happening soon, such as menstruation.
Wash hair using shampoo in either the shower or bath. Some people wash their hair every day, some less often. Brush hair morning and night to keep it looking good.
Wash face morning and night as skin gets oily during puberty; use a mild soap or face wash. If pimples and acne are a problem, visit a doctor for advice.
Boys and young men grow facial hair during puberty. It can be shaved with shaving gel/foam and razor or electric razor.
Use a tissue to blow your nose. Don’t forget to wash your hands after.
Brush teeth at least twice a day, use toothpaste and floss. Visit the dentist at least once a year for a check-up.
Hair grows under arms during puberty. Armpits get sweaty, so wash and use deodorant or antiperspirant to smell fresh. Be sure to wear a clean shirt. Some people may choose to shave under their arms. If they do, they should ask for help.
Girls and young women wear bras to be comfortable as breasts grow.
Pubic hair is normal and does not need to be removed. Ask for help before removing pubic hair. Razors and gel/foam, waxing and creams should be used carefully.
Leg hair is normal and does not need to be removed although some people do not like to have hairy legs. Ask for help before removing leg hair. Razors and gel/foam, waxing and creams should be used carefully.
Wash feet and change socks every day.
- Having a period is a normal and healthy part of growing up. However, for some, periods can be painful and difficult to manage. Many girls and women have cramping. If that cramping interferes with everyday life, such as going to school, it is important to talk to a doctor.
- On average women lose about 2-3 tablespoons of blood during their period. Many women think they lose more. If bleeding seems to be very heavy (a maxi pad is soaked in less than an hour) talk to a doctor.
For more detailed examples of how to teach hygiene skills, see lesson plans on teachingsexualhealth.ca: http://teachers.teachingsexualhealth.ca/wp-content/uploads/4-DA-Taking-Care-of-Me-2015.pdf
For more detailed examples of how to teach about menstruation, see lesson plans on teachingsexualhealth.ca:http://teachers.teachingsexualhealth.ca/wp-content/uploads/5-DA-My-Period-2015.pdf