Personal hygiene is important in every stage of life, but good cleanliness habits start in childhood. Kids who learn what it is and how to follow proper hygiene practices will usually carry that into adulthood. Hygiene education starts with the family, and eventually youngsters can learn what to do and follow cleanliness rules on their own.
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Personal hygiene is generally defined as cleanliness of the body and proper maintenance of personal appearance. This generally includes all body areas and clothing. Kids do not naturally understand the importance of personal hygiene and how to maintain it. They learn about it from their family and usually need assistance until they get older and are able to do it on their own.
A Matter of Self-Esteem
Kids with poor personal hygiene may become targets of ridicule by their peers. They will be teased for having a dirty body, dirty clothing or greasy hair. This can harm their self-esteem and make them even more negligent of themselves. Adults will get a poor impression of the child and may even suspect parental neglect if he is young enough to be dependent on his parents for helping to keep him clean.
There are several basic types of hygiene for kids. First is cleanliness of the body, which alleviates dirt and odor. A child should be taught to bathe or shower every day and to wash her hands frequently. Dr. Lynn Smitherman, a pediatrics professor at Wayne State University, cites hand washing as one of the most important cleanliness habits children can learn. At the very least, a kid should learn to wash her hands before meals and after using the restroom. This cleanliness area also includes the hair, which must be shampooed regularly.
Second is oral hygiene, which means brushing the teeth regularly. It should be done at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Ideally the child should learn to brush after every meal too. The Journey to Caring website states that teaching your child to brush correctly is just as important as frequency.
Third is wearing clean clothing. Children should learn to choose a clean outfit, including underwear, each day and to change out of play clothes if they become excessively soiled.
Growing and Learning
Personal hygiene expectations for children must be age appropriate. Youngsters can start to learn hygiene basics as toddlers. For example, they can learn to wash their hands and brush their teeth with parental modeling, although they will still require assistance with bathing, showering and dressing. Dr. Daniel Neuspiel of the Beth Israel Medical Center pediatrics department explains that parents can make bath time fun with toys and games in the early years. Kids can gradually do these activities independently as they reach school age, and this will lead to bathing, showering and dressing on their own.
Bad personal hygiene can harm a child's health in several ways. Unclean kids are more prone to illness, either from the dirt itself or from exposure to cold and flu germs and other illnesses carried by others. Cavities and gum disease are caused by neglected oral hygiene and can lead to premature loss of teeth.