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Dr. L
Dr. L, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist
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Why does my 10 year old daughter not keep herself clean and

Customer Question

Why does my 10 year old daughter not keep herself clean and will wear soiled underwear for days at a time or until i find out about them?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. L replied 2 years ago.

Dr. Levang :

Hello,

Dr. Levang :

You indicate that you've tried talking to her. What is her response when you attempt to discuss this? Does she get defensive? Does she ignore you? Are there other behaviors that are similar? For example, does she not brush her teeth, comb her hair, doesn't put on the appropriate shoes for the weather/season?

Dr. Levang :

How long has the soiled underwear situation gone on? Recent or long-term.

Dr. Levang :

Tell me how she does in school, does she have friendships outside of school, does she have hobbies.

Dr. Levang :

If you can provide a little more background, then we can continue to sort this out.

Dr. Levang :

Thanks.

Dr. Levang :

Dr. Levang

Customer :

Thank you for responding. I first noticed the underwear situation a few months ago and thought we had discussed it and moved past the issue but last night realized that is not true. We were at a basketball game and I smelled her and then figured that it was still an issue and thus we went to the restroom and i had her show me her underwear. It brought me to tears as I realize there must be some strong emotional issues within her. She does fair in school, a B/C student but has done much better in the past. I ask her about brushing her teeth and suspect she lies about it as when I test her breath I learn she swirled mouth wash or ate a mint instead of brushing. Her hair appears unclean most times but I know she is into using hair products and we are working on her controlling the quantity she uses. When I smell her hair/head I smell sweat/body odor. She so desperately wants friends but I am beginning to wonder if her lack of hygiene is affecting her ability to make friends and keep them.

Customer :

She in the past three years has put on a large amount of weight. She weighs 191 lbs and is 5'4" wearing a size 9 1/2 shoe.

Customer :

When I spoke with her about the underwear last night I saw some shame and a little embarrassment. I also saw a huge wall go up. She is not active but wants to play sports which I have allowed her to do. How can I help her?

Expert:  Louise Sivak, M.D. replied 2 years ago.
Hello, have physical contributors to this behavior been addressed by her pediatrician, such as constipation and making sure she does not have a urinary tract infection?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Yes n no she does not have the issues her dr. Suggested counseling but I am concerned she may need a more intensive treatment option
Expert:  Dr. L replied 2 years ago.

Hello again,

I do not see your daughter as having a serious behavior problem. Rather, I see this as a 10 year girl who does not feel emotional safe enough to talk to her mother about her changing physical body.

Expert:  Dr. L replied 2 years ago.

I do think she was shamed when you brought her to the restroom - and perhaps on other occasions. Our natural response to shame is to retreat, to put a wall, and to feel that we are defective. I think that your daughter reacted as any one would when you confronted her about her hygiene. That being said, let's look at some solutions.

 

A new, radically different approach is needed her. First, your daughter needs to know - rock solid - that you love and care for her. I encourage you to apologize for the restroom incident and for any others that may have left her feeling uncomfortable,embarrassed, shame, and not loved.

 

Then...set about making things better. My suggestion is that you take your daughter to the local hairdressing salon or spa. Give her the full treatment - nails, hair, facial...the works! Let her - and you too - be pampered. This should be a "girly" day of relaxation and fun. The hairdresser/massage therapist (whomever) will be teaching her about hygiene - right!!! That get's you out of being the tough disciplinarian whose is checking her panties, her hair, her skin - right!!! At the end of the day...you can have a little chat about how good it is to keep your skin clean, etc. and what she can do to keep this up. Get her the necessary products for someone her age.

At 10 your daughter IS changing. You mention her weight, but you don't mention height. Has she also grown taller? If she hasn't, she likely soon will add some inches to her frame.

In my experience, 10 year old girls really don't understand hygiene all that well. They need to learn what products to use, and so forth. But they need to learn these things in ways that do not damage their self-image and self-esteem.

A day at the spa will give her the sense that you care about her and want her to be happy. And truly that is what you want.

Let me know how you feel about my answer.

Dr. Levang

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