Do you dread giving your child a bath, trimming her nails, wiping her face or nose, or taking your child to get a haircut? Don’t worry, you are not alone. There are many parents out there who can sympathize with your frustrations. This article will give you some suggestions to try at home with your child to help make these hygiene routines a little more tolerable.
To begin, your child may be acting this way because his sensory system is more sensitive to touch then other children’s. In order to help your child, there are several desensitizing activities and techniques that you can use to make his sensory system less sensitive. It will take some time to reduce these sensitivities, but if you hang in there and are consistent with trying these suggestions you may see an improvement.
Bath Time Should Be Fun
Bath time is supposed to be a fun and relaxing time of the day. The child can play with toys, splash around, and even pretend to swim like a fish! But with some children bath time is a sensory overload. You are using a soft washcloth to wash your child, you are touching him all over his body and you are scrubbing his head. Depending on how much water is in the tub, they may feel unbalanced or insecure while sitting. Here are some suggestions to help:
- When washing your child with a washcloth, try using a firm pressure instead of a light touch to wash. The light touch of the washcloth may actually be tickling your child.
- Try singing a song; such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” while washing so the child is aware of which area of the body you will be washing next.
- Use a firm pressure on the head when washing the child’s hair. Deep pressure is more calming than light touch. You can even try finding a mirror that suctions to the bathtub so that your child can see himself and allow him to help you wash his hair.
- Try putting less water in the tub so the child feels more secure while sitting.
Haircuts! What an Experience!
Haircuts, haircuts, haircuts! What an exciting experience! Think of it from your child’s point of view. There is a strange person standing very close to my head, holding a very sharp pair of scissors or using a tool that makes a funny noise and tickles. I am sitting in a chair that moves up and down, and I have this crazy garbage bag thing around my neck. Kind of a scary experience when you really think about it! Again, just like bath time, haircuts are a sensory taxing activity. Here are some suggestions:
- For boys, instead of using clippers that make a noise and tickle, try having the hairdresser use just scissors to trim the hair. It may not be the exact haircut you like on your son but it will be less stressful for both you and him.
- While your child is sitting near you watching a show or playing, use a deep massage on his head to help desensitize the head to touch.
- When combing hair, sing a song or count to 5 so she is aware of how long the brushing is going to last.
- If possible, have the child sit in a seat that is not in front of a mirror so she cannot see the scissors coming so close to her head. There are even some hairdressers that have TVs and fun chairs shaped like cars, trains and airplanes to make the experience more fun for the child.
- Ask the hairdresser to use a firm pressure when combing the hair. I know everyone tries to be as gentle as possible with children, but that might not be the best approach in this situation.
Nose Wiping and Nail Trimming
Lastly, let’s discuss face/nose wiping and nail trimming. There are not that many suggestions to help with these hygiene tasks. Sometimes you just have to grin and bear the crying and screaming for a short period of time. If the child has a cold and runny nose, keep in mind that the constant wiping is making her nose dry and sometimes cracked so any wiping is going to cause discomfort to her. Try using lotion around the corners of the nose after each wipe to keep it from cracking and drying out too much. Here are some other suggestions:
- Try singing “This Little Piggy” when trimming nails to distract the child.
- Several times a week, use lotion to massage your child’s fingers and toes after a bath to desensitize them to touch in these areas.
- Try approaching your child from behind when wiping his nose to help prevent the start of a melt-down before you even get a chance to get close to his nose.
- Allow your child to wipe her nose first and then say “Mommy’s turn” or “Daddy’s turn”.
Overloading a Child’s Sensory System
In conclusion, hygiene routines can be very overloading on a child’s sensory system. It takes time and creativity to help your child work through his sensory aversions. Try to be as patient as possible with your child and talk him through the experience. The more often you perform these hygiene tasks the more exposure your child is having to them, which in turn will help to desensitize him to these necessary routines. I hope you found this article helpful and that you will be able to use some of these suggestions in your daily routine with your own children.