First days of school are good times for safety, hygiene talks

September 03, 2004|by Lisa Tedrick Prejean

First-day jitters are gone, seating assignments are set, and children are getting reacquainted with friends.

The first week of school brings adjustments and oh-so-much paperwork. It's bound to cause upheaval in even the most organized of homes.

We get so busy filling out forms, picking up and dropping off our kids, packing lunches and checking to see if homework is done that it's easy to forget about the most important thing.

We forget to listen to and talk with our children. After all, that's how we really find out what's going on.


It never ceases to amaze me what I learn while talking with my 5-year-old and my 9-year-old.

The little one recently came to me decked out in eye shadow and sparkly lip gloss.

"Mommy, do I look pretty?"

I assured her that she did. Then I asked the question most mothers would ask: "Where did you get the makeup, dear?"

Apparently, one of the older girls at school was sharing her lip gloss and eye shadow with the younger girls.

I swallowed hard and resisted the urge to sanitize my daughter's mouth.

"Dear, sharing is a wonderful quality, and I want you to be able to share with your friends. However, there are some things that we do not share."

I explained to her that we never share mascara, toothbrushes or lip gloss because we'd not only be sharing the makeup or personal hygiene items, we'd also be sharing each others' germs. Germs love moist areas such as the mouth, the nose and the eyes. We don't want to share germs because germs can make us sick.

She looked so sad after I told her this that I decided to offer an alternative: When you're playing dress-up, each girl can bring her own makeup. That's how big girls do it.

I have a feeling that this will be one of many discussions we'll have in the next few weeks about safety and hygiene.

This is the time of year I particularly concentrate on keeping my children healthy. They haven't been in enclosed areas with 20 other children all summer, so it pays to reinstate the rules I've set for them.

Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't.

Take our rule on combs, brushes and hats, for instance.

We don't share those because of the potential to transfer lice.

I realized that my daughter had a grasp of this rule one day when she couldn't find her brush. I told her she could use mine.

She looked at me suspiciously and asked, "Mommy, you don't have lice, do you?"

I assured her that I didn't and that it was OK to borrow my brush.

When it comes to hand-washing, however, she still needs to be reminded.

My questioning doesn't stop at, "Did you wash your hands?" It also has to include, "Did you use soap?"

It's so easy to forget when you're busy playing.

My son's biggest hurdle so far this school year is getting his dirty clothes from his body to the hamper, rather than the floor. Since his bedroom is above the laundry room, perhaps he thinks osmosis will take care of that step. (It's dangerous when they get in upper elementary school and start learning all these science concepts. Then they have too much mental ammunition to use.)

I've tried to tell him that it's not safe for me to walk in his room when his clothes are scattered everywhere. Plus, I refuse to wash anything that is not placed in the hamper or put in the laundry room. Running out of clean shirts is certainly an incentive to do what you are told.

In the next few weeks, we'll all settle into a routine, and the schedule will seem to take care of itself. There's comfort in the customary, even if it involves homework.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles