During the past three months and still continuing lockdown, my teenage son (14) has become very careless about personal grooming. He doesn’t comb his hair or brush his teeth regularly. He wakes up just in time to attend his online classes. How do I motivate him to practise basic personal hygiene? — Darshina Moorthy, Mumbai
During the turbulent adolescence phase when teens are striving for independence, they tend to often push and challenge boundaries set by parents/adults. My suggestion is that you discuss this issue calmly with him in a non-judgemental and respectful tone.
Basic hygiene rules include showering every day or every other day; using a deodorant or antiperspirant; brushing teeth twice a day and, preferably, flossing daily and changing underwear every day. These rules are a guide and can be tailored to suit your son. If your teen has oily skin or hair, a daily shower might be necessary. If his skin is dry, then bathing every other day is acceptable and even preferred because too much bathing strips away the skin’s natural protective oils.
Good dental hygiene is also important to prevent tooth cavities and bad breath. Therefore, discuss the social acceptance perspective of personal grooming. Also you can motivate him by allowing him to select his preferred brands of personal care products.
My four-year-old has just begun attending online classes but every time we turn on the laptop and she sees her teacher’s face, she starts to cry. How do we help her overcome her fear? — Brinda T, Chennai
The lockdown is a difficult time for all, especially youngest children deprived of outdoor play and social interaction. It’s natural for them to feel anxious and frustrated about being locked in 24/7. Unfortunately they are unable to verbalise their emotions as their language skills are still developing. In the case of your daughter, perhaps she associates seeing her teacher with something she finds difficult and struggles to adjust with e.g. online learning or perhaps she misses her teacher and friends and watching her teacher makes her nostalgic about happier times.
The simplest way to find out what’s wrong is to ask her and give her enough time to formulate her thoughts and put them into words. Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and not interrupted by household chores. If she is struggling with online classes, discuss with her teacher about ways and means you can support and motivate her to adjust to this new mode of teaching-learning.
Since I have started working from home, my two children routinely interrupt my work including video meetings with complaints and demands. They never go to their father, who is also working from home, with any complaints or when they are hungry. I am beginning to get frustrated and often yell at them. How do I get them to respect the boundaries of my home office? — Rashmika Majumdar, Kolkata
I understand your situation — it’s difficult and exhausting to juggle working from home, household and child care duties. I suggest you discuss your frustrations with your husband and seek his help to split parenting duties.
Together, write down home office rules to be respected by all family members. Get your children involved in making a poster detailing the new rules and pin it up where everyone can see it. Explain why it’s important that they don’t disturb you during crucial working hours — you could put a colourful sign on your door saying something like ‘Mummy’s busy, speak to daddy’. Praise and reward your children when they follow the rules and ensure that you spend quality time with them each day when you’ve finished work. Ask Your Counselor Nurturing 21st Century children.
Sue Atkins (Sue Atkins is a UK-based internationally recognised parenting expert, broadcaster, speaker and author of Parenting Made Easy — How to Raise Happy Children (2012))