As a former educator and frequent volunteer in my daughter’s elementary school classroom, I know one thing for sure. Fourth grade stinks. Like, for real. Those kids are cute, funny, and a joy to be around, but oooh wee are they funky! To be fair, it’s not their fault. This is just the age that puberty starts and their bodies are trying to figure itself out.
Along with the budding breasts and body hair, the skin starts to change and girls and boys start to sweat more. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but it definitely needs to be addressed. Fourth grade funk is like an elephant in a room. A big ole stinky elephant in a classroom!
I’m glad that my daughter goes to a school where her fourth grade teacher is a mom who has her own kids who’ve been through this stage. She has talked to the class about body odor and has even suggested that they bring a stick of deodorant to keep at school for after recess and gym. I know what you’re thinking—deodorant on top of funk? Not a good idea! But it’s better than the alternative. Just plain funk.
We’ve all gone through it. I remember my parents talking to me about taking care of my body when I was my daughter’s age. Those lessons didn’t seem important at the time. In fact, I felt embarrassed listening to my folks give me detailed instructions on how to shower, and stuff like the importance wearing of clean underwear. As I became a teen, I appreciated knowing how to keep myself clean and look nice, especially when I discovered not all of my girlfriends knew how to do that.
I don’t think some of those other girl’s parents didn’t care. Now that I’m a mom, I believe they just didn’t realize they needed to give their daughters the specifics of good hygiene.
We have to teach our daughters good hygiene practices.
What do our girls need to know about taking care of their bodies? I thought about it and realized we all know the basics. We have to teach our daughters to brush their teeth, take care of their hair, put on clean underwear every day, take showers, etc. Everything that we do on a daily basis as part of our hygiene practice is what our daughters need to do.
There’s more, though. There are things that women know because we’ve been on the earth longer, we’ve read books and magazines, and know we’re experts in personal hygiene. That’s what I think we need to be teaching our daughters early. Not the stuff they they’re going to learn anyway just by being observant, but the things that they might not ever find out because no one talks about it.
1. Always wipe from front to back.
Make sure your daughter knows that she should never wipe from her butt to her vagina. She could spread feces into her vagina and encourage infection.
2. Never use perfumed vaginal products.
Teach your daughter that her vagina does not need to smell like a valley of roses, or mountain water. She doesn’t need any special perfumed products like douches or tampons to improve what’s already good.
3. Wash your towel, washcloth, and bed linen regularly.
Your daughter will already know about putting on clean clothes. Talk to her about the importance of replacing her towel, washcloth, and bed linen at least once a week so that she isn’t washing with or sleeping on old body fluids, skin flakes, and other yucky stuff that could cause skin issues.
4. Floss daily.
Everyone knows that they need to brush their teeth. We need to talk about flossing more, though. Tell your daughter to imagine old food sitting in between her teeth, rotting. Ask her what she things her breath would smell like with rotting food sitting in her mouth. See? Flossing is important.
5. Wear a silk scarf at night.
If your daughter is black or has curly or kinky hair, wearing a silk scarf or bonnet will prevent her hair from breakage. It’ll also help to keep her hair moisturized and healthy. Get her in the habit early, and teach her not to be embarrassed to wear her scarf every night, even at sleepovers.
Read: How to Wash Your Black Daughter’s Hair
6. Take the time to wash your face.
Taking care of your face is different than taking care of the rest of your body. I use two different lotions on my face, plus a sunscreen. Show your daughter how to take good care of her face, especially as she heads into the acne years. Remind her to take her time, moisturize properly, and she’ll keep breakouts to a minimum.
7. Don’t overdo the perfume.
This is the age where girls want to start experimenting with scents. Teach your daughter that a little can go a long way, and that if she puts too much on, it’s overpowering and does the opposite of what she wants to do by spritzing on her perfume in the first place.
8. You can put on lotion multiple times a day.
My daughter used to only put lotion on after a shower. We’d be in the car and I’d see her cute little ashy knees, and ask if she’d been playing in flour! She didn’t realize that she should watch for dry skin and put on more lotion even if wasn’t right after she had just bathed.
9. Keep your fingernails clean.
I’m so strict when it comes to nails. No long nails. No chipped polish. I told my daughter those are just my rules, but she should always keep her fingernails neat and clean. We talked about spreading germs and bacteria and how nails that aren’t groomed can be a carrier for those things. Show your daughter how to give herself a simple manicure.
Being a girl who is going through puberty is exhausting. There are so many new things to learn how to do on your own. As moms of daughters, we can make this time a lot easier by thinking about what our girls are going to need to know ahead of time. Helping them to create good hygiene practices is one of the most important things we can do for our daughters.
And hey, if it makes the funk go away sooner, that’s just icing on the cake!