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How Can I Encourage Good Hygiene Habits?

My preteen stepdaughter lives with her mother and visits us on the weekends. Her mother doesn't make her bathe every dayand sometimes she hasn't bathed or washed her hair for a week when she arrives at our house. What can I do to encourage good hygiene habits?
- Kirstie

It can be difficult when a child travels between two sets of parents with two different sets of expectations. Without criticizing her mother, you might want to gently point out to your stepdaughter that as she begins to enter puberty, she may need to bathe more.

New puberty hormones will stimulate the sweat glands to become more active. Sweat is odorless — however, when it's broken down by the bacteria on our skin, it creates an odor that can be unpleasant. Bathing daily with antibacterial soap and warm water helps decrease the amount of bacteria.

Those same puberty hormones can also make hair oilier, so hair will need to be washed more often as well.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2012