Helen’s Fostering Blog.
Being Hygienic is something as adults we just do without thinking about, it’s easy to forget that this is something we learn from a young age. Its not hard to imagine why a foster child who is placed with you might not be particularly hygienic or have any knowledge as to the importance of good hygiene.
Although both Beth and Harry had been in foster care for 18 months prior to living with us their hygiene was pretty much none existent and Harry at the age of 8 would frequently wet himself and would often smell of urine and faeces whereby he wasn’t cleaning himself properly after going to the bathroom.
When the children first came to live with us there were so many things we needed to help them learn and understand and hygiene was just one of those things we needed to tackle. We were very conscious about their feelings but wanted to help them learn this basic of life skills.
We started with simply just reminding them about washing hands after using the toilet, when we asked them, they would simply just tell us they had when we knew they hadn’t, but we just kept asking and reminding them.
In the beginning I would put the children’s clean clothes out for them every morning, they would question why they needed a clean school shirt on as previously they told us they would wear the some one all week. Even with me doing this, Harry would simply put the dirty clothes back on and the clean clothes in the dirty washing basket and tell me he’d changed into the clean ones.
Having something as simple as a bath or brushing their teeth was a nightmare, and when they did they were so quick it was hard to believe they actually put much effort into it, sometimes Harry would come out with bone dry hair and insist he had indeed washed his hair.
I started to pack another set of cloths in my bag if we went out for the day, in-case Harry had an accident, when he did, he would deny anything was wrong and that he was quite happy to walk around wet. I would near enough beg him to use the toilet prior to leaving the house and still do.
When I noticed him dancing on the spot again, I would suggest he might need the toilet and he’d simply reply “no I don’t need to go and then either run to the bathroom last minute or just not bother. I had to stop letting him drink too much water prior to bedtime which felt mean.
After about 6 months I did take Harry to see the GP as we couldn’t rule out, he didn’t actually have a medical problem. We were advised it was just a badly-behaved bladder and that it would take time.
So how did we reach the point 15 months down the line whereby hygiene has greatly improved… simply it took patience, time and constantly educating them about hygiene.
We started by making a point by our own good examples, constantly reminding them about their hygiene and the importance of it, we watched a few children friendly video’s on YouTube, we read them books about it. When they would have a shower after their swimming lessons, I would talk them through about washing their hair without the shampoo going in their eyes, the importance of washing all of our bodies, as
I wasn’t able to show them at home its was easy for me to stand there with them at the public swimming pool showers, saying ‘don’t forget under your arms, the back of her neck, your tootsies’, etc.
I don’t know many parents who don’t have to remind and encourage their children to be hygienic but for some foster children its simply something they have never been taught and its therefore our job as their foster carers to help them learn this all important skill, normally with a lot of patient and a good sense of humour.
Helen – A Blogging Foster Carer.