Managing personal hygiene in teenagers

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Teenagers often get a bad press when it comes to discussion of their abilities to get out of bed in the morning or maintain adequate personal hygiene. It certainly isn’t the case that every teenager will need encouragement to get up and go in the shower. In fact, as a foster carer to young adults you may struggle to get time in the bathroom for yourself.

However, hygiene for teens can be a sticking point and as part of your role in helping young adults to prepare for the future, foster carers should aim to help teens to develop good hygiene habits. With this in mind, today on the NFA blog we’re talking power shower struggles and possible tactics and techniques to solve them.

What to look out for

Unwillingness to take regular showers or baths, a surprising lack of underwear or school uniform that needs to be washed at the end of the working week and an apparent aversion to using deodorant can all be signs that a teen is struggling to maintain adequate personal hygiene levels. Unfortunately, as well as being a concern for you as their carer, this could also be unpleasant for those around them depending on how great the problem is. It may be that the teen in question does spend time in the bathroom but doesn’t appear to come out any cleaner or fresher than when they went in and this can be doubly frustrating.

Possible factors in poor personal hygiene for teens

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to struggle with hygiene at some point. Sometimes it’s simply the case that they’d prefer to be doing other more interesting things than showering or tidying their room and sorting washing. It can be difficult to adjust to their changing bodies and may take time to recognise that the hormones that come with being a teenager mean they need to deal with oilier skin or increased body odour.

Start your fostering journey today

And, as with children (or indeed individuals of all ages), by commenting on their unwillingness to follow your advice about bathing, brushing and changing, some teens can turn arguments about hygiene into an on-going power issue, testing boundaries and patience. However, despite there being a number of related factors that may contribute to hygiene issues in all teens at one time or another, there are also some driving factors that you may not have considered that could crop up with foster children.

Children who have come from homes where neglect has been an issue may not have been around adults who have followed a regular hygiene routine and as such could be unaware of how best to look after themselves or to carry out some tasks. A history of abuse can also lead to issues with youngsters feeling anxiety over undressing, spending time in the bathroom or lead to them wanting to make themselves appear less appealing to others. Depression and self-esteem issues can also play a part, with some youngsters perhaps not valuing how they appear to others.

How to handle hygiene in teenagers

If you’re struggling to hammer home the hygiene message to your foster child, your first point of action should be to try and find out the potential factors at work. Approach the topic gently at first and ask if there’s a reason they’re not dedicating as much time to hygiene maintenance as they should. Your care team should make you aware of any underlying factors that could be at work but it’s possible some may not have surfaced.

For those learning to adjust to the physical impact of teenage development, a shopping trip to pick out suitable products and discussion of how to use them effectively could work alongside prompting until habits are more firmly established. The challenge is likely to be greater for individuals struggling with self-esteem or depression issues and these youngsters may benefit from counselling as well as considerate coaching and support from you. Most importantly, try to avoid turning the issue into one of contention or addressing it in a way that could potentially damage their self esteem further.

Could you handle it?

If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, get in touch with your local team to take the next step.