Personal Hygiene ~ What I Learned as a Foster Mom

Many of the issues related to personal hygiene also blend nicely with the category of “clothes.” However, there are also a few practical ideas that we have yet to address.

Photo by maria b_r

Photo by maria b_r

First of all, it is extremely helpful to have a shower schedule and stay with it. With the large number of kids in our family, I find that if we don’t start showers by around 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m., it is going to be a very late night. Have the children choose the order that they want to take showers or simply assign that they go from youngest to oldest; whichever works best with your bedtimes and number of kids. Then tell each child that they have twenty minutes to shower and be out of the bathroom. Place a large mirror in the girls’ rooms next to the outlets so that they may style their hair in their bedrooms instead of in the bathroom. At first, it may even be necessary to set a kitchen timer, or allow the kids to have a kitchen timer in the bathroom so that they know when their time is up. If you have fewer kids, obviously you can allow them more time. But, with the large number in our family, twenty minutes is as lengthy as the shower time can be. Then keep the rotation going. This is one time I have found it is best just to remind the kids when it is their time instead of relying on the kids to be responsible. If you don’t get all of the kids bathed, their clothes laid out for the next day, and in bed at a decent hour, you can be assured that the following day will be difficult. Find a routine that works and stay with it. Set a kitchen timer if needed (both inside the bathroom for the kids and outside the bathroom for you) and remind the kids when it is their turn to get in the shower.

The next area of concern in personal hygiene relates to the children brushing their teeth. In our house, one child would say that he had brushed his teeth and three of the other children said that child did not. Sometimes it’s hard to know whom to believe, and you really don’t want to waste a lot of time and energy on something as simple as brushing teeth. However, you don’t want all of their teeth to fall out either. What I find works best is purchasing what we call “the blue stuff.” It is next to the mouthwash and toothpaste in the grocery store. When the child swishes it, it will tint the plaque that remains in the child’s mouth a blue color. You can have the children do this daily and monitor or you can do this weekly just to be sure the children are brushing correctly. I would recommend daily at first, as many of the children have never been taught how to brush their teeth correctly.

Many times girls will want to paint their fingernails or toenails. Let the girls do this but also beware that there is a good chance that fingernail polish or remover (Which should be stored in your bathroom instead of theirs.) will be spilled. Plan accordingly. You may want the girls to be in the kitchen with trash bags laid out to protect the floor. Also, if they are honest when they spill something and come and tell you what they did, do not become angry. Just clean it up. It is far more important that they learn you are 

someone they can come to with a problem (and be honest) than that your floor or table is free of spills. The spills are just not a big deal. Also, I do not allow my girls to wear black fingernail polish. I realize that it is in style, but I also want to do everything I can to teach them practices that will serve them well as adults on the job and to deter them from being escorted into a group of which I don’t want them to be a part. I realize that color of nail polish seems like a small thing but you show your children that you love them by caring about the details in their lives just as God shows his love for us by caring about even the details in our lives. After all, life is made of a series of details that simply run together.

I also ask that all children style their hair before leaving the house. When young children fix their hair themselves, and it still looks messy, politely offer to help them style their hair. They may tell you that they like their hair looking like that. Typically, this simply means that no one ever taught them how to style their hair.  Find a nice salon to take the girls to with a young stylist that the girls love but whom you can trust to give the girls hair styles and cuts of which you approve. Call the hair stylist before an appointment and ask her to explain to the girls how to fix their hair while they are at the appointment. This way you won’t embarrass the girls by asking in front of them. Also, if you can trust the girls and Child Protective Services (CPS) will allow, just drop the girls off at their hair appointments. This is much more fun for the girls and it shows them that you trust them to make good choices in their hairstyle. If they want to cut their hair short, grow it long or get highlights, allow the girls to do so. I let any child from age 11 and older get highlights as long as it is a color that occurs naturally in hair (no pink or blue) and is something that the stylist thinks would look pretty on them with their skin tone, natural hair color, etc. I pay for all the haircuts and for all the girls to have their eyebrows waxed. When appropriate, I purchase my daughters their own flat iron (the kind that turns off by itself if left on too long is best), hair dryer, hair gel and any other tools that they might need to style their hair. They pay for the highlights, acrylic nails, etc., out of their allowance. I do require that if they are going to have highlights, they keep them up. They are not allowed to have their roots showing as I tell them that it looks “tacky.” This may sound minor, but it is important that you find a hair stylist both you and your girls love. The stylist must be able to relate to the kids and be trusted by you to do a great job. This way, you don’t have to be the one to say, “No, you may not shave your head and dye the Mohawk green.” The stylist simply guides the girls to cute and fashionable styles that both of you will like. Boys are a bit simpler as they are usually quite happy with a walk-in barber shop environment. However, try to avoid taking the girls to a walk-in place if possible. Even the girl who is a sworn tomboy typically loves the pampering of an exclusive salon, and it will do wonders for her self-confidence. One privilege of parenting is teaching children poise and self-confidence. They will take this with them on job interviews, dates and in social settings throughout their adult life. Grooming and hygiene are very closely related to self-confidence. If you can instill self-confidence in a child, half of the work is done.

Posted on July 14, 2014 .