Preteens and Deodorant

Any parent of a preteen has smelled it coming: The onsalught of odors associated with puberty. When did your darling child go from the scent of candy bars and peanut butter to stinking like the bottom of an NBA locker? You may first notice it when you're driving carpool, or doing laundry, or hugging your child good night. Now what?

  • First, accept what you're smelling, even if your child is as young as 10 years old. Many parents think younger preteens are "too young" for deodorant. The fact is, children are entering puberty earlier than ever before. Remember, this isn't about you. It's about your kid.
  • Second, notice if the body odor occurs once in a while or all the time. Stinky kids after soccer practice or dance class is one thing. Stinky kids after a day of school is another and probably means your kid is ready for some underarm intervention.
  • Third, if you've determined that the smells are indeed an everyday occurrence, ask your child if she's noticed the change in her body smells. If she doesn't already do so, teach her how to wash her underarms every night before bed. And don't be surprised if she resists any changes to her routine--preteens are notoriously resistant to just about anything if it comes from their parents!

It's really important to be gentle and non-judgmental when talking with your preteen about this issue. Preteens may take any input from you as criticism, so figure out what you're going to say before you say it. "Tucker, I've noticed that your shirts are smelling pretty sweaty at the end of each day. You know that's all part of growing up, don't you? It's probably time for you to wash your armpits every day, and for you to start using deodorant" will work a lot better than, "Hoo-ee! Somebody's turning into a sweaty teenager!" Also, make sure the two of you are alone for this conversation--no siblings allowed!

Because of suspicions (although currently unproven) that aluminum-containing deodorants are linked with both breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease, some parents prefer not to use aluminum-containing anti-perpirants, and don't want their children to use such products, either. If you fall into that group, try these alternative deodorant methods. The advantages of these methods: They're dirt cheap, they'll stop odor almost completely, and they don't leave funky residue on your clothing. The disadvantage: They won't totally stop wetness.

  • In a covered container, mix equal amounts of baking soda and cornstarch. Shake like crazy to make sure it's completely blended. You can apply this with cotton balls, a cotton puff, or your bare hands. You can also put it into a container with holes in the top and shake it directly onto your armpits. 
  • Fill a small spray bottle (available for about one dollar at most drugstore/variety stores) with Listerine. Be sure to sue the original formulation, not one of the flavored variations. Squirt onto armpits the same way you'd use a commercial deodorant. Let dry for a minute or two before you put your clothes on.
  • Fill a small spray bottle with Milk of Magnesia and spray on your armpits. Let dry a minute or two before getting dressed. Yes, this sounds crazy, but it works amazingly well.

Your preteen may do best with the spray-on options rather than the slightly messier application method needed with the baking soda and cornstarch recipe. Remember, where your preteen is concerned, simple works best!

Now, if they would just keep their bedrooms clean...

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