Ask the Experts – How Can I Get My 13-Year-Old Son to Take More of an Interest in his Personal Hygiene?

Chris Koutures, MD

How can I get my 13-year-old son to take more of an interest in his personal hygiene?

Answer: During the early teenage years, children have a growing sense of wanting to be independent, so finding creative ways for a boy to have “control” over his body and hygiene decisions might provide less conflict.

• Take your son to the store and let him help select his own personal hygiene products. He very well may choose stronger fragrances than most adults would tolerate – that’s OK and part of the learning process.

• Since teenagers favor sleeping in to the last possible moment before school or other early commitments, try to make the morning routine as efficient as possible. Consider allowing individual bathroom time (sharing can be distracting and a threat to that emerging independence) with key items readily accessible and not hidden in drawers or cabinets.

• Tie in better hygiene to particular teenage concerns such as acne – for example, showering right after sports or exercise may reduce blockage of skin pores and may reduce acne.

• This is one time where peer pressure may be a positive thing – often, direct comparisons with friends may motivate a young man to “improve his looks” much more than constant reminders from parents.

• When he begins to show more interest in his hygiene, appeal to his vanity by offering ample praise, even if the selected presentation isn’t your first choice.

Dr. Chris Koutures is a CHOC pediatrician and sports medicine physician. As the father of three children, and team physician for USA Volleyball and Cal State Fullerton Athletics, he uses his experiences to guide families in the care and physical health of their children.

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