Children get sick more often than adults. Their immune systems are weaker because they are not fully developed. Children spend much of their time in close contact with other children at daycare or school where germs are easily transmitted. Unfortunately, most children are not as conscious of personal hygiene as they should be, greatly increasing their risk of illness and the likelihood they will pass it on.
As a parent, it is not always easy to teach proper hand washing and dental hygiene. If it's a battle to get your children to wash their hands and brush their teeth, we have some tips that may help your children become hygiene professionals.
Children always respond better to activities that they perceive as fun. Help your child to view hygiene as less of a chore by purchasing hygienic tools with more pizzazz. Brightly colored toothpaste with sparkles, yummy flavors or a favorite cartoon or action hero are always a hit with kids. Scents, vivid colors and fun shapes are great for soap. Many companies now make foaming soaps just for kids. Soaps with toys inside are now being sold on the Internet. You can bet your child is going to want to lather up often to get closer to a treat!
"Do as I say, not as I do" is not a practice that children respond to. If you want your child to practice good hygiene, they must see that you do the same. Make a point of routinely washing your hands and brushing your teeth when your child is present. Your children look up to you. You must set the example.
Washing hands and brushing teeth should be something that becomes second nature to your child. Every morning and every night before bed, make sure hygiene happens at the same time and consistently. Before meals, always have children wash their hands, even at restaurants or away from home. For school-age children, think about putting a reminder note in their lunch. If you know your child will not make the trip to the sink at school, include a portable hand sanitizer in the lunchbox.
How often have you seen your child quickly run their hands under the water or neglect to brush all of their teeth? It is important to instill a timeframe for your child so that they understand how long is appropriate for washing and brushing. A useful trick is to tell your child to sing a song like “Happy Birthday” twice before they stop washing their hands. For brushing teeth, play a song that lasts about three minutes or purchase a timer (they are inexpensive) so your child is aware of when to stop.
Remind your children of how important it is to practice good hygiene. Explain to them that, although they may not see germs, they are present and can make them sick. Connect hygiene to illness by reminding them of the last time they were ill. The memory may be powerful enough to convince them of the importance of hygiene.
Bradley Hospital helps you deal with difficult parenting issues in these comprehensive reference sections:
Parents' Guide to Children's Mental Health
Have questions about common children's mental health problems? Download this one-stop resource for those answers plus information about advocacy organizations and support groups.
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