Make sure that your adolescent understands that her personal hygiene routine will have to be more rigorous than it was when she was younger. Showering or bathing daily with attention to the underarms, groin, backside, and feet is more important than ever.
Discuss with your adolescent whether she should be washing her hair every day. As her hair becomes greasier with the onset of puberty, she may need to do so.
Talk to your daughter about good menstrual hygiene and make sure she all the supplies she needs. Explain the difference between sanitary pads and tampons, and make sure she understands that menstruation does not need to limit her ability to be physically active.
Talk to your son or daughter about shaving when you start to see facial hair on him or hair on her legs, and give them the necessary equipment to start doing so.
Body image issues increase sharply during adolescence. Use your child’s physical development to guide you through what subjects you should be addressing. If acne is a persistent problem, for example, consider seeking advice from a dermatologist.
Make sure that the information you’re passing on to your child is current. Some of the hygiene advice you may have been given when you were younger, about things such as shaving or menstrual hygiene, may no longer apply.
Learning to handle their changing hygiene needs can be a challenge for some adolescents. Don’t be too hard on your 7th grader if she is struggling or resistant. Make sure she understands how important hygiene is and that it is her responsibility alone to take care of her body and keep it clean.
By the end of 7th grade your child will have lost all or most of her baby teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene habits is more important than ever. Tooth decay and cavities are entirely preventable yet remain widespread and affect children in the United States more than any other chronic infectious disease. Untreated dental problems can become infected, causing pain and problems with eating, speaking, and learning.
Your child should be brushing her teeth at least twice a day, and after eating, if possible.
Your child should be flossing every day.
See a dentist immediately if your child injures a tooth. Dental injuries are common among children through age 14, and if left untreated can result in severe complications.
If your child plays a contact sport, she should wear a mouth guard to protect against dental injury and concussion.
If a child’s permanent tooth becomes dislodges due to an injury, place the tooth in a container of milk and seek dental advice as soon as possible. Permanent teeth can sometimes be re-implanted successfully.
Find out how much physical activity your child is getting each day at school and what sorts of activities she is doing in gym class or at recess. This will give you a better understanding of her overall level of physical activity. According to a recent Institute of Medicine report, even the best physical education curriculum fails to provide the necessary 60 minutes of recommended activity a day.
School districts vary widely in the amount of physical education they offer, so it’s especially important for parents to encourage physical activity and model good behavior. Organize family activities that incorporate physical activity, such as walks and bike rides. Outdoor chores such as raking leaves or shoveling are a good way to squeeze exercise into a busy weekend.
Explore lessons and organized sports for your 7th grader. These might include gymnastics or ballet classes or soccer or little league. As she grows and her physical abilities progress, your child may express an interest in sports that even a year ago were too difficult for her. Expose her to as many options for physical activities and sports as possible. Community organizations like the local YMCA often offer affordable and kid-friendly yoga or Tae Kwon Do classes, for example.
If you are concerned that your child is not active enough, try to find ways to make physical activity more enjoyable for her. For example, inviting friends over to play outside might motivate her. Or suggesting that you exercise or do yoga together might spark her interest.
One reason that children are less physically active than in previous generations is that fewer and fewer children walk or bike to school. If doing so is a safe alternative for your child, encourage the practice.
Even if she doesn’t seem to take to sports naturally, encourage your child to try out different activities and to find one that suits her. Some children resist team sports but can excel at individual sports like tennis or track. Make sure you let her sample a variety of sports to find her interest, and think of non-traditional sports, like fencing or archery, that might appeal to her. Reward and encourage persistence, so that even if your child is not a “natural athlete” she learns to enjoy participating and pushing herself to improve.
The link between physical activity and improved academic performance is becoming increasingly clear. According to a recent report from the Institute of Medicine, children perform cognitive tasks better after participating in a session of physical activity. The report also notes that “frequent bouts of physical activity throughout the day yield short-term benefits for mental and cognitive health.” Encourage your child to take play actively or exercise before doing her homework or studying and to take short active breaks from sedentary activities. For example, if she is getting bogged down on some especially homework difficult problems, suggest that she clear her head by walking the dog or kicking a ball outside.
Exercise and regular activity help children feel comfortable with their bodies, which becomes especially important with the advent of puberty and its accompanying changes. Make sure your child knows about the changes that will take place in her body when she goes through puberty—things like sweating more, developing stronger body odor, growing pubic hair, and having acne.
Limit the amount of time your child spends in front of the television or computer monitor. Children who spend a majority of their time engaged in sedentary activities have been found to have poor motor coordination skills. Limit the amount of time that your child remains inactive to no more than an hour at a time.
See if your child is budgeting enough time for sleep during the week by having her record the time she goes to bed and wakes up every day in a sleep journal. Use the information to map out her typical weekly schedule, incorporating time for meals, extracurricular activities and homework. If her bedtime is consistently getting pushed back, she is probably over scheduled. Encourage your daughter to cut back on the number of her commitments and establish realistic expectations for the amount of sleep she should be getting each evening.
Since most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each evening, a 20-minute power nap could be helpful. However, experts caution that adolescents should not be sleeping after 4 PM because it will disrupt an evening of restful sleep. If your child chooses to nap, have her set an alarm to ensure that she wakes up after 20 minutes.
Help your child maintain a regular study schedule so that she isn’t cramming the night before a major test. Studying for at least 10 to 15 minutes every night will ensure that she can get plenty of rest prior to an important exam.
Does your child have a lot of homework? Encourage her to complete the homework that requires a computer earlier in the evening. This way she avoids exposure to the stimulating lights of the computer during the time right before bed.
Though it is recommend that children keep a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week, for some families this is unrealistic. Encourage your child to get to bed within an hour of her normal bedtime and wake up no later than two hours after her normal wake time. By establishing clear expectations for your child on the weekends, you will make the rest of her week easier by avoiding an uneven sleep schedule.
Check your child’s bedroom to see if it is a dark, calm, and quiet environment. When you turn off the lights, there should be no illumination. Remove the television, computer, and other electronics from the bedroom since they emit a blue light that disrupts your child’s sleep cycle.
Establish an electronic curfew for the entire family at least 30 minutes prior to your child going to bed. Model the behavior that you want to see in your child by also turning off your cell phone and other technological devices.
Caffeine can affect the quality of your child’s sleep. Encourage her to cut down on her consumption by reducing the number of energy drinks, sweetened teas, and sodas in the home, and limit her consumption, particularly in the hours after school.