How to Talk to Your Teen Boy About Health and Hygiene

If you’re mom to a tween or teen boy, there’s no doubt that at some point you’ve asked youself, “Just what the heck is that smell?”

What is it about boys on the verge of hitting puberty, that makes them think it’s OK to skip a shower and instead cover up their stink with an overdose of Axe body spray? When it comes to boy basics, we have some words of wisdom.

Middle school English teacher Dana Taylor is no stranger to the smelly boy issue, particularly when her students have just returned from gym class. She believes the responsibility is truly up to the parents.

“At many schools, the health and gym teachers sit the kids down and talk to them about hormone changes, but it’s the parents who need to actually go out and buy their teen deodorant and show them how to apply it or give them a razor and teach them how to shave,” Taylor says.

Dr. Peter Lechman, the medical director for Northwestern Physicians Group Pediatrics, explains, “At around age 10 or 11, boys are still developmentally little kids yet entering the early stages of puberty. Their hair and skin are becoming oilier and they are starting to perspire. It’s up to the parents to find a way to motivate their child to take ownership over their changing bodies.”

Lechman has a few suggestions on how parents can do this.

  • Start by sitting down with your son and explain that part of growing up is about gaining responsibilities. Ask him how he can behave like an adult in regards to hygiene and make an actual list together of his answers. This will engage your child right away. If there’s a father in the house, ask your son to consider his father’s daily routine. He brushes his teeth, puts on deodorant, changes his underwear and socks daily. This should all go onto your list.
  • Around this age, boys start to care about what other people (particularly their peers) think about them. Try to appeal to that desire. You can tell them about the health benefits of taking care of themselves, but that’s not going to matter to them just yet. Instead, come from the other angle and emphasize that they’re going to turn off others if they don’t take care of themselves.
  • Give them the tools they need and show them how to use them. This is another step a same-sex role model can teach them.

If your son is educated about grooming and hygiene as a young man, he’ll carry these habits into his adulthood.