Teen daughter won't shower

by Jenny
(New York )

My 16 year old daughter won't shower anymore she goes a whole month before I can get her to shower. She also keeps her hair covered and keeps a cover wrapped around her every day. Also she won't clean her room either it's filthy all the time.

Ben's response:

Although it's not that uncommon for teenagers to neglect their hygiene and avoid showering, this is definitely excessive. When a kid is depressed and/or has low self-esteem this can be one reason to neglect self care and it might be a good idea for her to talk to a professional licensed therapist. Depression is not the only possible reason though. Lack of self-awareness, or simply disorganization and poor self-care habits can be the reason too.

The most important thing as a parent is not to add shame by being insulting, threatening or demeaning to them. But at the same time, setting very clear rules and expectations about cleanliness and showers. You cannot force a 16 year old to shower (or to do much of anything). But you can be firm about not giving any extra privileges, allowance, or other treats unless she meets your basic expectations. Showering at least a few times a week and washing hair at least 1-2x a week is what I would suggest to start.

If you have any concerns about her mental state, seeing a therapist is what I would first suggest.

You can also try making a deal. She gets something special every time she showers. It doesn't have to be material things. Could be some special time together doing something fun. Sometimes making a deal that you will do something healthy that she thinks you should do for yourself every time she takes a shower. Can lighten things up and improve the relationship at the same time.

As for room cleaning - if it's gotten really bad, I would suggest that you do not buy her anything new, like clothes, as long as they end up on her floor. Basically - if you can't find a new piece of clothing, then it doesn't belong to you anymore and you can't get any new ones until you get organized.

For kids that are simply overwhelmed and can't get started, it is okay to help them get started cleaning as long as you stay calm, and don't do it all for them.

Just a few things to consider.

Wishing you the best,

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