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Child Development & Parenting: Middle (8-11)
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Hair Care and Clean Clothing

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Hair Care

teen girl doing hairHair care is another important aspect of keeping one's self clean and healthy-looking. Regular hair washing removes dirt and oils from children's hair, and can help to reduce the risk of scalp infections and other health problems. It is possible to wash hair too frequently, however. Over-washing of children's hair can strip too much oil from children's delicate scalps, resulting in dry, flaky skin. As each child's hair and scalp is different, and as the oiliness of children's hair and scalp changes over time (generally increasing as they approach and enter puberty), the frequency with which children's hair should be washed will vary. Some children will need to wash their hair daily, while others will benefit from waiting two or three days between washings. As is the case with soaps which also vary in their skin-drying properties, parents may wish to try a variety of shampoos so as to find one that produces the best result. Children's use of a light conditioner or detangler after shampooing will help keep their hair shiny and healthy as well as keep tangles (which can hurt to comb out!) to a minimum.

By middle childhood, children will generally be capable of mastering simpler hair care tasks such as learning how perform daily combing and brushing. More complex hair preparations, such as braided hair, may require continuing parental assistance. However, parents can use the time they spend preparing children's hair as opportunities to teach them how to do these things for themselves. A parent might help a child braid her hair in the morning (so as to get her out the door towards school in an efficient manner). In the evening, when she has more free time, she can practice brushing and braiding her own hair. Ultimately, she will learn how to braid her own hair; an accomplishment which will help her to feel proud of herself, as well as save her mother time during busy mornings.

Clean Clothing

The best way to cover a fresh, clean-smelling body is with fresh, clean clothes. Parents should model and teach young children to change their clothes every day, especially making sure to change their socks and underwear which may accumulate odor more than outer clothing. As well, children should be reminded where to place dirty clothes in preparation for their being washed (e.g., in the dirty clothes hamper).

During middle childhood, children are capable of taking on more responsibility for caring for their own clothes. At this time, parents can ask them to take on chores such as taking the dirty clothes hamper to the laundry room on laundry days, and helping with the folding, hanging up and putting away of their own clothing. Additionally, children can be taught about stain care, and the timely application of spot treatments such as spray-and-wash or shout-it-out (both American stain-removal products) to stained items of clothing prior to their being laundered. Parents of older children may wish to teach their kids how to load and set the laundry machine so that it will appropriately wash a load of laundry. The more clothing-care skills children learn, the more independent they will become, and the more accomplished they may feel.