Whew! Kids and Body Odor
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Health, Wellness, & Safety
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Your older elementary grade or middle school child is suddenly pretty stinky… you know, underarm stink. Instead of holding your nose, try to think of this as a good thing: your little child is growing up!
Body odor is triggered by puberty and is one of the earlier signs of development. Especially after an hour of soccer or something similarly active, children from about age 10 on can smell quite strongly.
There are several ways to approach the issue of stinkiness and the sooner the better. The new focus of attention you will introduce to your child is important to his or her social acceptability now and into the future. Don’t spend time tiptoeing around this issue. Start now this five-point program for a sweet-smelling child:
One: Focus on scents. The sense of smell is something most of us take for granted. We let scents go by without much notice. Change that. Invite your child to notice the smell of cookies, the odor of candle smoke, the fragrance of clean laundry, the whiff of pine trees. Build scent awareness just by paying attention.
Two: Heighten hygiene. Even if your child takes daily baths or showers there’s no telling what parts are getting washed and how well. So have a heart-to-heart talk with your child around the responsibility, now that she’s older, to step up the cleanliness quotient. Spell out the need for a daily cleansing with soap and the special need for attention to potentially stinky body areas. Talk about the need for clean clothes every day. Talk about the need to shampoo hair often. You or your child’s same-sex parent should take him out to buy his own soap or body wash and his own shampoo. Let him sample the fragrances of the various products and even settle on his own “signature” scent.
Three: Tweak the laundry. It is easier to remove smells from cotton and other natural fibers than from synthetics, so keep that in mind when buying clothes for your older child. Ask your child to spray prewash on the underarms of his shirts before tossing them in the laundry. This helps him participate in keeping his clothes fresh. Sports jerseys of polypropylene and similar synthetics are notorious for holding odors and also are notorious for being worn day after day without being washed. Make it a rule that jerseys are for sports only, not for school, and ask your child’s coach to let you purchase at least a second jersey so one can be worn while the other is washed.
Four: Go deodorant shopping. Remember to make this a rite of passage – a good thing – not a punishment or something to be ashamed of. Let your child choose the product (sample scents again) and the method of application that she likes. Start with a deodorant-only product (not an antiperspirant) and be sure to check the label for parabens, a chemical additive you want to avoid.
Five: Be tactful. Kids have the same capacity for embarrassment that you do so slant the conversation about body odor in as positive a light as you can. Developing a mature odor profile is a natural part of growing up and not something your child is doing on purpose to make you miserable. Be matter-of-fact, don’t wrinkle your nose in public, and let your child make some of the decisions.
At the same time, comment favorably on your child’s nice fragrance when he emerges from the shower, has just shampooed his hair or has applied that deodorant he picked out himself after sampling every option on the drugstore shelves.
Hearing, “Mmmm…. You smell nice!” is a lovely motivator!
© 2013, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.