Your child smells.  Here’s how to deal with it without making them feel bad about their bodies

Your child smells. Here’s how to deal with it without making them feel bad about their bodies

Your child smells.  Here’s how to deal with it without making them feel bad about their bodies

Do you have a stinky kid?  Here's how to handle it delicately.  (Image: Jay Sprogell)

Do you have a stinky kid? Here’s how to handle it delicately. (Image: Jay Sprogell)

Jaime pulled her 11-year-old son in for a hug, and her nose quickly began to itch.

“I have a smell I’ve never smelled before,” says the mom of two about her oldest child. “I know it’s getting old, but I didn’t expect it.”

Jaime, a South Florida mom who prefers only her first name to be used to protect her child’s identity, says she couldn’t help but blurt out what she noticed right away: her son smelled funny. His response was shock and denial.

The often-unpleasant aroma of maturation quickly wafts over many parents and children. But how can you tell your pre-teen or teen that they stink without taking a chance on their confidence?

Caitlin Long is a Certified Holistic Sex Educator and Head of Curriculum at Sex Positive Families. She advises having the not-so-fresh-smelling conversation in private so you don’t embarrass your child in front of others.

While she says the conversation may look different for each family, it should start with honesty. Recognize that this may be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Don’t start making assumptions, but rather lead the conversation with questions and curiosity.

“If a child feels they’re being asked in a way that then leads to them feeling like they’re about as a person, that’s a problem,” Long tells Yahoo Life. “If they start to think they’re dirty or that there’s something wrong with them or their body, it can cause them to shut down and negatively affect their self-esteem, their relationship with their body and with you as parents or caregivers. “

This is an opportunity to build safe and open communication between parents and children.

“If parents or caregivers want to be seen and understood as someone their child can trust to talk about their body, it’s important to frame the conversation in a way that helps them understand that bodies smell some times to signal that there is a need,” says Long. “Just like when clothes smell, it’s a sign that they need to be washed. Just like when our stomach growls, it is a signal that there is a need to eat food.”

Sticking to the facts is the best way to deal with it, says Dr. Hina Talib, a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and co-founder of Thread Health, a digital health service for teens and parents. Teens and teens are usually self-conscious about their bodies already, she notes.

“You don’t want to make a teenager feel bad about their changing body, which is a natural process,” says Talib.

She tells Yahoo Life that this is a common theme reported by patients and their parents, and that body odor is actually one of the first signs of puberty.

“Having body odor and noticing it is a hallmark of the onset of puberty,” says Talib. “How we react to it, that might be something that has room for improvement so that it doesn’t feel so controversial.”

Like Long, Talib suggests driving with curiosity to find solutions. For example, through a simple conversation you may find out that your child is so tired when it’s time for his morning shower and it might be better to shower in the evening. Or you might hear something you didn’t expect.

“Sometimes when teenagers are very sad or anxious, one of the things we see is that they have a hard time taking care of their bodies,” Talib says. “Make a plan for how they’re going to take care of themselves, and then check in once a week. Be a support, a cheerleader.”

It can also be helpful to share books, websites, or YouTube videos that talk about the responsibility of good hygiene, whether it’s bathing regularly with soap and shampoo, wearing clean clothes, or wearing deodorant. The whole process is easier if practicing good hygiene is an expectation before it becomes an issue.

“When kids start bathing independently, it’s important to practice taking care of their bodies by showering regularly and using soap on their armpits even before they need it,” says Talib.

Any soap is better than no soap, although exceptions should be made for sensitive skin. Deodorant is also a good option, however, Talib recommends saving antiperspirant for teenagers, not tweens.

Talking to your child’s pediatrician is a good idea when planning a hygiene plan. It is also important to include your child in any decisions that are made.

“Let them be part of the solution [and decide] what do they want to try next and how do they want to solve this problem of how BO [body odor] observed,” says Talib.

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