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HomeHealth & Behavior

Ode to Spring meets odiferous spring

Wondering how to tell your teens that their growing bodies, warmer weather, and negligible hygiene have joined forces in a perfect storm of stench? Give them this letter from a middle school principal.

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By Pete Lavaroni

Dear parents of middle school students,

This beautiful spring weather with these wonderfully warm days are reminders of many things, such as picnics in the woods, trips to the beach, or bike rides through the park. For our middle school students these warm days bring another reminder: the need for personal hygiene. I recognize that this is not at all poetic, but it is nonetheless important. Please talk with your child to remind him or her that it is our responsibility to be clean and follow these recommendations as a benefit to your child, as well as the classroom.

The most basic of all hygiene rituals is the shower or bath. Your son or daughter should shower every day and always after any rigorous sports practice or outdoor play. Please make sure that your child has washcloths and soap available, and ask your child to use them. Please also make sure that your child has any special face or body washes specific for her or his skin type.

Body odor becomes evident when puberty hits. Help your child understand the difference between deodorant, which controls bacteria while often adding fragrance, and antiperspirant, which is supposed to stop or limit sweating. It is important to let your child know that individuals often cannot smell their own body odor and therefore may have a real need to use deodorant, even if they can’t smell themselves. Please help your child pick out an appropriate and healthy deodorant.

Many middle school kids find that their hair is now getting oilier, so encourage a thorough shampooing every day or two. Keeping hair clean and out of his or her face will also lessen breakouts caused by oil and greasy hair products.

Brushing teeth is important so make sure that your child makes time to do it. It may bother you and me to think about the fuzzy feeling of dirty teeth, but some kids just hate to brush their teeth! Please be persistent with them and talk about gingivitis, cavities, and bad breath. Again, we don’t usually recognize this in ourselves.

Remind your child that wearing clean clothes is important. Dirty clothes can be unhealthy and odorous (again, without our knowledge) because people often can’t recognize their own smell. Clean socks and underwear are especially important!

Our teachers will be talking to their classes. However we have found in the past the most effective teachers of good hygiene are parents. Please be diligent and help your child understand and use good hygiene practices. Help them look, feel, and smell as beautiful as they are!

With thanks,

Pete Lavaroni

Mr. Lavaroni is the principal at Kittredge School, a private K-8 school in San Francisco, CA.

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