December 30, 2004
The first whiff may be somewhat of a shocker. Sure enough, that body odor is coming from your preteen son.
It’s among the normal changes that are part of normal puberty, but discussing hygiene and grooming can be awkward for both parent and child.
The key, experts say, is to keep it low-key and positive. Boys and girls are sensitive enough about their appearance without hearing, "Phew! You stink!" from their mom or dad.
"We just make it a very normal part of the office visit," said Dr. Norm Saba, chief of pediatrics for Banner Desert Children’s Hospital. "We discuss things in a very open manner, and we tell them how they’ve got to take care of their body."
That includes showering every day, using deodorant, regular tooth brushing and flossing, getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Jessica Besich of Tempe let her four boys choose their own deodorant once their hormonal changes started raising a stink. But she still had to remind them to use it, as well as to brush their teeth and take regular showers.
Eventually, she said, the battles centered around being too clean.
"It is a constant reminder until they hit a certain age," she said. "Once they hit high school, it’s ‘Get out of the shower. . . . You’ve got too much cologne on.’ "
Physical education teachers often help with hygiene reminders until it becomes routine for preteen and teenage children. And with new body products for teen boys, they don’t have to smell like their big sister or their dad.
Controlling body odor and other grooming habits are important to boys’ physical and emotional health, Saba said. "They’re very sensitive. Somebody can say something to them and they’ll be in a funk all week long about it."
Typically, children want to practice good hygiene so they can look and feel their best, he said.
A boy who’s confident about the way he looks and smells can pay more attention to things like schoolwork, sports and friends.