Exactly how to talk about hygiene with tweens

Motherly Collective

As moms, we get how important it is to help our kids build good habits early on. When they hit those tween years, personal hygiene becomes a huge deal. (It starts that first time you get a whiff of some serious B.O. coming from your once sweet-smelling baby!) Bringing up this topic can feel awkward, but with some smart strategies, you can have a candid convo that steers your tween toward developing consistent personal hygiene routines. 

As the founder of Miles, a line of gender-neutral, clean deodorant formulated for tweens and teens, this topic is very close to my heart. Here are my top tips for starting the hygiene conversation with kids ages 9 and up.

Setting the stage for the hygiene convo

Pick the right time and place

Timing is key. Find a moment when it’s just the two of you without any distractions. A relaxed, private setting works best—like a casual walk, in the car or while you’re fixing a snack or meal. I find it helps if I can make some eye contact every now and then, but I’m not constantly staring them down. Why? It keeps us feeling connected without making it seem like a big lecture.

Stay low-key

Create a relaxed vibe where your tween feels comfortable talking about personal stuff. Reassure them you’re there to help and support, not criticize or judge. I usually start with an observation like, “Hey, I wanted to get your thoughts on something. I just discovered this new (fill in the blank) personal care product. I thought you might want to check it out.”

The basics of talking about hygiene with tweens

Explain why it matters

Start by discussing why good hygiene is so important. Explain it’s a huge part of growing up, staying healthy and feeling confident socially. Break down what this includes: teeth, skin, hair, body odor. Helping them see it’s just an extension of what you’ve already been doing as a parent by bathing them, brushing their hair and teeth. But now they’re taking over those responsibilities. My kids really got this once I pointed out the embarrassing thought of me still bathing them at their current age!

Use relatable examples

Share some personal stories or examples that drive home why hygiene matters. Could be something from your own teen years or a friend’s experience figuring it out. I told my kids about when my mom came to me and said it was time I started wearing deodorant. When I asked why, she admitted she’d been smelling my armpits on my T-shirts! I was mortified, but she quickly explained it’s totally normal and happens to everyone. They loved that story.

Frame it as self-care

Try not to present it as a chore

Shift the focus from just another chore to taking care of themselves. Discuss how practicing self-care sets you up to feel good every day. I compare it to how their dad and I take care of our bodies, and ask what kinds of scents or product textures they might like to try.

Highlight the benefits

Emphasize all the good things that come from great hygiene habits, like feeling fresh and confident, staying healthy and making a good impression around friends. I’ll say something like, “Doesn’t that shower feel amazing?” after they’ve gotten ready or, “It feels so good to smell nice!”

Build those habits

Lead by example

Model good hygiene yourself. I brought my kids into the bathroom recently and walked through all the products I use, highlighting the ones I wanted them to use too. (Thankfully, they should skip all my anti-aging skincare!) Kids often learn by watching, so setting a good example can be powerful.

Make it a team effort

Frame hygiene as everyone’s responsibility in the family. Create shared routines together, like a morning or evening schedule that builds in hygiene time. I have a little verbal checklist I run through as my kids are almost out the door: “Deodorant on? Teeth brushed?”

Keep the conversation going

Be open to questions

Encourage your tween to ask any questions that come up. Create an environment where they feel safe sharing any curiosities or concerns about hygiene stuff. If a question surprises you, try to keep your cool and neutral tone. If you’re unsure of an answer, you can always say you’ll look into it together.

Really listen

Pay close attention to their thoughts and feelings on the topic. Actively listening builds trust and brings you closer, making those future convos way easier.

Make it a bonding experience

Having the hygiene talk with your tween can actually be a bonding experience. By coming at it with empathy, understanding and some low-key strategies, you’re not just guiding them toward better hygiene—you’re opening up good communication that’ll benefit your relationship all throughout those teen years.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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